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Olympic Boxing Remains In Crisis

Photo: Alex Livesey (Getty)

The Olympics are a bureaucratic rat’s nest, with national governing bodies, international governing bodies, host cities, various Olympic committees, and other assorted grifters jockeying for influence and money while also trying to put on the largest international sports spectacle in existence. One of the bigger squabbles between organizations is the ongoing dispute between the International Olympic Committee and the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

Last November, the IOC announced that it would be conducting a formal investigation into AIBA’s “governance, ethics, and financial management” due to AIBA’s chronic debt problems, the suspension of all 36 referees and judges from Rio amid bout fixing allegations, as well as its recent appointment of Uzbekistani Gafur Rakhimov as AIBA president. Rakhimov’s appointment was openly opposed by the IOC, because the alleged mobster has been accused by United States authorities of “[operating] major international drug syndicates involving the trafficking of heroin.” The IOC halted all planning for boxing in Tokyo when it announced its investigation.

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The IOC executive board announced its findings of that investigation today, and it recommended boxing maintain its place at Tokyo 2020, just without the involvement of AIBA. The IOC’s 30-page report on AIBA was rather damning. It concluded that AIBA was a fundamentally broken organization, incapable of adhering to ethics standards, judging fights fairly, or handling its finances at all.

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The report also included a strange letter from Umar Kremlev, the Secretary General of the Russian Boxing Federation, where he offered to pay off AIBA’s entire $16 million debt using his personal funds. The IOC determined that he probably didn’t have the money, and was really only trying to commit basic corruption. (The IOC rejected Kremlev’s proposal.)

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The board recommended AIBA be suspended until after the 2020 Olympics at the earliest, with the IOC organizing boxing in Tokyo in the meantime. However, a formal decision won’t be made until next month’s IOC meeting in Switzerland. In the meantime, the IOC’s new task force is still figuring out how it will administer the tournaments in Tokyo, and boxers are being left in the lurch.

Qualifying events will not begin until January 2020, and while the IOC said it will have the same number of medal events for men and women, it’ll need until the end of June to determine the weight classes and “quota places allocation across the boxing events.” Boxers who want to fight in the Olympics face a wild degree of uncertainty, and will most likely have to qualify and train with less time to prepare than they need.

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