The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked India’s Randhir Singh to continue as acting head of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) after refusing to recognize the governing body's recent election of Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as president.
The move comes days after the IOC moved to ban Sheikh Talal’s older brother Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah for three years, over his alleged interference in the election earlier this month, which saw Sheikh Talal beat fellow Kuwaiti Husain Al-Musallam, the organization’s director general and president of World Aquatics, by 24 votes to 20 at the OCA general assembly in Bangkok.
Sheikh Ahmad, who has been suspended by the IOC since 2021 after being convicted of forgery in a Swiss court and sentenced to at least 13 months in prison, allegedly traveled to Thailand’s capital to lobby on behalf of his brother in direct opposition to a warning not to from the IOC’s chief ethics and compliance officer Pâquerette Girard Zappelli.
The IOC’s ethics commission has now filed a report saying Sheikh Ahmad had an “undeniable impact” on the process and the IOC should not “recognize these elections until a full review … is carried out at a later stage.”
It added: “To ensure that the Olympic contributions to the OCA, such as … the Olympic Solidarity Funds, to be distributed to the Asian National Olympic Committees directly by the IOC (and not through the OCA) until the OCA's elections have been recognized by the IOC.”
Singh, a former secretary general of the OCA under Sheikh Ahmad between 1991 and 2015, has been serving as acting president of the OCA since Sheikh Ahmad stepped down following the Swiss court’s verdict.
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In a letter requesting his leadership, the IOC said: “Seeing as the IOC investigation is likely not to be concluded before October 2023 and since the IOC has not recognized the election of Sheikh Talal Al-Sabah, the IOC will continue to work with you [Singh] as OCA’s acting president.
“Following the outcome of the IOC investigation, we will work with you to implement the next steps of a roadmap to ensure the continued functioning of the OCA according to the basic principles of good governance.”
As well as a three-year ban, the IOC’s ethics commission has advised the IOC “to recommend the Olympic parties, including the IOC members, to refrain from interacting with Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, in particular, to avoid any risk of any perception of influence on any decisions regarding the Olympic movement.”
Sheikh Ahmad, who aside from his sporting activities is currently Kuwait’s defence minister and deputy premier, has so far denied any wrongdoing. He is also currently appealing the aforementioned forgery ruling.
Sheikh Talal and Sheikh Ahmad are sons of the first OCA president, Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who founded the governing body in 1982 and led it until his death in 1990.
Sheikh Ahmad subsequently led the organization from 1991 to 2021 before stepping down after a guilty verdict against him in a Swiss forgery trial, which related to an internal dispute within the Kuwaiti government. Sheikh Ahmad had been accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the country's emir.
Before the forgery case began, Sheikh Ahmad was seen as a kingmaker in terms of sporting federations and governing bodies, and their elections.
Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images