Boxing

Boxing world body stripped of right to organise tournament at 2020 Olympics

Michael Conlan famously fired a one-finger salute in the direction of AIBA judges following his controversial loss to Russia's Vladimir Nikitin at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. It was last night confirmed that AIBA had been suspended by the International Olympic Committee and stripped of the right to organise boxing at Tokyo 2020. Picture by Sportsfile
Matt Slater

OLYMPIC boxing's governing body AIBA has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee and stripped of the right to organise the tournament at Tokyo 2020.

The decision, which was announced by IOC president Thomas Bach after a meeting of his executive board yesterday, comes after a six-month investigation into the crisis-hit federation.

AIBA has been on the ropes for several years as it has struggled to answer questions about its finances, governance and refereeing standards but its relationship with the IOC reached a new low when it elected Gafur Rakhimov as president last November, despite the Uzbek being on a United States sanctions list for alleged involvement with a global crime network.

Rakhimov has denied the US allegations and repeatedly blamed AIBA's current difficulties on his predecessor C K Wu, who ran against Bach for the IOC presidency in 2013.

But with pressure mounting on him and his federation, Rakhimov eventually stood down in March and was replaced by interim president Mohamed Moustahsane.

If AIBA had hoped that would be enough to placate the IOC, they were wrong as Bach insisted that while there will be an Olympic boxing competition in Tokyo, AIBA will have nothing to do with it.

Furthermore, he said, the IOC's executive board was recommending AIBA's suspension - a decision based on the findings of the inquiry he set up in November and will be rubber-stamped at next month's IOC Session.

"These decisions were taken in the interest of the athletes and the sport of boxing," he said.

"We want to ensure, on the one hand, that the athletes can continue to live their Olympic dreams...while at the same time drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA following the recommendation of the inquiry.

"We have offered a pathway back for lifting the suspension after Tokyo 2020 but for this, there must be further fundamental change within AIBA."

Asked what this will mean for the thousands of boxers around the world hoping to win a place at the Games, Bach said: "This is good news because now they will know there will be a boxing tournament in Tokyo...and they will know there will be a safe and fair competition where all the athletes will have an equal chance".

With AIBA benched, the IOC has asked the president of the International Gymnastics Federation, Japan's Morinari Watanabe, to lead a task force that will organise the boxing qualifiers and competition in Tokyo.

This will include confirming the weight categories, quota allocations, and qualification events, which are scheduled to take place between January and May next year.

On why Watanabe has been given this job, Bach said it was because of his links with Tokyo 2020's local organising committee, his expertise in organising Olympic competitions and his understanding of the importance of "refereeing and fair judgement".

AIBA was deemed not to have come up to the mark on this front at Rio 2016 – most famously in the case of Belfast boxer Michael Conlan, whose controversial defeat to Vladimir Nikitin sent shockwaves around the sport.

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