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Rakhimov quits as head of crisis-hit AIBA

Updated March 23, 2019

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In this file photo taken on November 3, 2018 then newly elected president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Gafur Rakhimov speaks during a press conference at the annual AIBA Congress in Moscow. — AFP
In this file photo taken on November 3, 2018 then newly elected president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Gafur Rakhimov speaks during a press conference at the annual AIBA Congress in Moscow. — AFP

LAUSANNE: Gafur Rakhimov stepped down as head of the AIBA, world amateur boxing’s governing body, on Friday amid a spat with the International Olympic Committee that could see the sport kicked out of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The Uzbek businessman has been engulfed in controversy since he was elected in November because the US Treasury Department has linked him to “transnational criminal organisations”, a charge he vehemently denies.

Rakhimov said that under his leadership “the work done this last year has revitalised and energised AIBA and boxing”.

“However, despite these efforts, there have been many discussions these last few months about the future of Olympic boxing. A lot of that was mainly focused on politics and not sport.

“While I had truly hoped and believed that sport and politics could be separated, and that the good work and positive changes being infused into AIBA would be recognised, the politically-based discussions have put into question the progress being made throughout the AIBA organisation.”

Boxing’s inclusion in the Tokyo Olympics depends on the outcome of an investigation into AIBA by the International Olympic Committee, which has presented the body with a list of 41 questions via audit firm Deloitte, who will then report back to the Olympic body.

Upon announcing the investigation the IOC suspended qualifying for the 2020 boxing tournament — making it the only sport not to have its qualifiers approved — and warned that it could be stripped of the right to run the competition.

Relations between the IOC and AIBA were hit hard at the 2016 Rio Olympics when 36 officials and referees were suspended amid allegations of bout fixing.

Rakhimov protested his innocence on Friday, saying the allegations against him were motivated by political battles in Uzbekistan.

“Once again, as I have stated before on numerous occasions, I attest and confirm that the allegations against me were fabricated and based on politically motivated lies; I trust that the truth will prevail,” Rakhimov said in his resignation statement.

“Nevertheless, I have always said that I would never put myself above boxing, and as president, I have a duty to do everything in my power to serve our sport and our athletes.

“Therefore, given the current situation, I have informed the AIBA committee of my intent to step aside as AIBA president.

“I am convinced that all the good initiatives that have been implemented this last year will serve as a foundation that will continue to strengthen our sport in the future.”

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2019