Controversial president Rahimov to step down from beleaguered AIBA
Gafur Rahimov today announced his intention to step down as president of AIBA, the beleaguered international governing body for boxing in the Olympics, amid allegations by the US authorities of being involved in criminal activities and pressure from the International Olympic Committee.
AIBA is locked in a desperate struggle to avoid boxing being kicked out of the games over the IOC’s issues with its governance, and Rahimov's decision could go someway to alleviating concerns in Lausanne.
Rahimov, who was officially elected in November, released a statement to announce he will step aside and confirmed that he’s called an AIBA executive committee meeting for this weekend where he hopes to appoint an interim president.
He said in a statement: “Given the current situation, I have informed the AIBA executive committee of my intent to step aside as AIBA president in accordance with the AIBA statutes and bylaws, which allow the president to renounce to exercise his powers and to be replaced by an interim president. I have called an AIBA executive committee’s teleconference meeting over the weekend to address this matter and initiate the process of appointing an interim president.”
The AIBA president is listed by the US Department of the Treasury as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals,” and has been accused by the US authorities of being “an important person involved in the heroin trade,” allegations he steadfastly denies and reiterated via his statement.
Rahimov said: “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.”
Rahimov indicated that he made the decision to step down to help preserve boxing’s Olympic future.
He said: “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.”
At the end of November, just weeks after Rahimov's election win, the IOC froze all preparations for the 2020 Olympic boxing tournament in Tokyo, including ticket sales, approval and implementation of a qualification system, test event planning and finalisation of the competition schedule, pending an inquiry.
Among the IOC’s concerns, it has said that “Gafur Rahimov’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.”
Last month, AIBA said that Rahimov’s status as its president was just one of the concerns identified by the IOC and argued that he should not be forced to stand down when there is no strong evidence of his alleged wrongdoing.
Tom Virgets, AIBA’s executive director, denied that the fact that Rahimov has been repeatedly cited by the IOC as among its concerns proves that his continuing position as AIBA president is what is preventing the IOC from lifting its sanctions.
He said at the time: “They have been clear that the president is one of the problems. But they also said that AIBA has many problems. If it’s about the president, why hasn’t a statement come out saying, ‘if you want to go forward you have to go forward without the president’. If that is the issue, then let’s make it the issue. Why would he resign?”
AIBA is also facing a threat from a breakaway group that wants to organise the sport at the 2020 Olympics.
Last month, AIBA said that the “rogue group” led by unnamed “Kazakhstani individuals” had circulated a letter urging national boxing associations to write to the IOC offering help to run the Olympic boxing tournament, without the involvement of AIBA.
Citing “the dire situation of the sport of boxing,” the letter claimed that “our group is ready to provide with the necessary technical expertise and sufficient financial conditions” to run the tournament.
AIBA said at the time that it “assumes that the IOC has dismissed and distanced itself from any and all of these activities initiated by this group of individuals. The IOC has been contacted with regards to the letter, however, no response has been provided in return.”
For a Sportcal Insight opinion column on boxing in the Olympics, click here.