IOC suspends planning for boxing at Tokyo 2020

The International Olympic Committee has today (Friday) decided to suspend preparations for boxing at the 2020 summer Olympic Games as it commenced a procedure which could lead it to withdrawing recognition of the International Boxing Association (Aiba).

The IOC’s Executive Board today ruled on the current status of Aiba, which has been under the spotlight since the departure of disgraced former president Ching-Kuo Wu late last year. The removal of boxing’s status as an Olympic sport has been one of the options open to the IOC as it grapples with the multiple issues at the heart of governing body, and it has now delivered its verdict on the latest Progress Report submitted by Aiba.

The Executive Board acknowledged Aiba’s progress and its commitments highlighted in the report, but added that several points of “significant concern” remain, in particular in the areas of governance, ethics and financial management. A panel has been formed, led by United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic, to further investigate these concerns.

The IOC said its concerns specifically relate to financial issues stemming from a report conducted by auditors EY earlier this year, which stated that “uncertainty still persists” about the ability of the organisation to continue as a going concern. The IOC also said it understands Aiba is unable to maintain or open a bank account in Switzerland, where its headquarters are based.

The IOC said Gafur Rakhimov’s designation as a key member and associate of a transnational organised criminal network by the US Treasury Department “creates uncertainty” about his role as president of Aiba.

This month’s Aiba elections saw 137 voting members choose Rakhimov with a convincing 86-vote majority, as the incumbent leader defeated the challenge of Serik Konakbayev. Speaking at a press conference following the vote, Rakhimov claimed Aiba had made progress at addressing the IOC’s concerns under his leadership, adding that it was ready to make further changes.

Rakhimov’s name is on a US Treasury Department sanctions list for alleged links to international heroin trafficking. The sanctions prevent US citizens and companies from conducting business with him. He has denied wrongdoing.

However, the IOC today said Aiba had made progress with reform of its refereeing and judging systems. A PwC report on refereeing and judging at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires found that none of the key observations caused concern to the boxing competitions, and that the tournament’s integrity and credibility had not been affected. A judging scandal at the Rio 2016 Games led to the suspension of all 36 of boxing’s officials. The IOC also added that Aiba’s anti-doping programme is now fully compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Current sanctions imposed on Aiba, such as the suspension of any financial payments to the body, have been maintained. New measures have now been implemented, including a freeze on planning for boxing competitions at Tokyo 2020. This includes official contact between Aiba and the Local Organising Committee, ticket sales, approval and implementation of a qualification system, test event planning and finalisation of the competition schedule.

The IOC added in a statement: “The IOC Executive Board makes all efforts to protect the athletes and ensure that a boxing tournament can take place at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 regardless of these measures.”