The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended preparations for staging boxing as an event at the Tokyo Olympics after initiating a probe into the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the governing body for the amateur sport.
The IOC, according to some boxing officials, is trying to constitute another body for the conduct of the sport at the Games as it feels the AIBA is littered with corruption. Though the IOC has said it would keep the athletes’ interest in mind while taking a stand or a decision in the future, the move, which would put hold AIBA’s qualifying processes for the Tokyo Games, would put the boxers careers in jeopardy.
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Take Mary Kom for instance. The Indian champion announced herself as a medal favourite in Tokyo after sealing a sixth world title at the AIBA Women’s World Championships in New Delhi in November. It remains to be seen whether she can have what could be her swansong Olympic Games.
But the IOC is clear where it stands. “We are not going ahead, while the inquiry is underway, for any qualification system for the Olympic boxing competition in Tokyo,” said Kit McConnell, sports director of the IOC.
The question of corruption in sport is something that would shake the foundations of any global sporting body, including the IOC. The singling out of boxing could be directly attributed to the election of Uzbek businessman Gafur Rakhimov as president of the AIBA.
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IOC said it has concerns over the “governance, ethics and financial management” of AIBA. To make this worse for AIBA, president Rakhimov is on a US Treasury sanctions list for alleged links to organised crime. Rakhimov, on his part, has denied all allegations.
International sports administration is a murky place and in tussle for power at the higher echelons, boxers stand to pay a big prize.
The relationship between the IOC and the AIBA started deteriorating after the Rio Olympics in 2016. There were allegations of corruption against boxing referees in the competition and 36 were suspended after the Games for alleged “bout fixing”.
A clean-up act was initiated, including changes in the scoring system, stringent screening of officials for competition, as well as the streamlining of financial processes. However, for the IOC, all those moves seem to have been superseded by the election of Rakhimov, whose business interests are under scrutiny.
The AIBA submitted a report in April this year, listing out the reforms it felt would help remove the apprehensions expressed by the IOC. But IOC president Thomas Bach felt, at the time, that the reforms “lacked execution and substance in some areas”.
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Rakhimov, through a statement on November 29, highlighted how stringent measures have been taken by the AIBA recently to overcome the effects of earlier mismanagement.
“The fear of going bankrupt due to past financial mismanagement is far behind us now,” said Rakhimov. “It is time to turn the page and look further to the development of boxing worldwide.”
That idea of development, will have to be kept on hold for the time being as amateur boxing faces a big crisis as its relevance has always being associated with the athletes’ chance to compete at the Olympic Games.
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