AIBA: Boxing in danger of being knocked out of the Olympic Movement!

By Dr. Thilo Pachmann & Alexander Theiler, Pachmann Attorneys, Zurich, Switzerland

The woes of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), as we have previously reported in earlier posts on the GSLTR website, continue unabated!

Just before the start of the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires earlier this month, the IOC Executive Board issued a damning statement regarding the AIBA.

The IOC expressed its “ongoing extreme concern with the grave situation” within the AIBA and “its current governance”.

These extreme concerns of the IOC include the “circumstances of the establishment of the election list” and the “misleading communication within the AIBA membership regarding the IOC’s position”.

The IOC did not mention any names, but it is obvious that the AIBA President Gafur-Arslanbek Rakhimov appears to be the problem.

He was named AIBA Interim President last February and has been linked with organised crime by the US Treasury Department. In an attempt to force governance changes within the AIBA, the IOC already ceased financial contributions to the AIBA in February of this year.

Furthermore, the IOC has also frozen all contacts with the AIBA, except the ones absolutely necessary on the working level to implement the respective IOC decisions. This includes also the non-accreditation of Rakhimov for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.

The IOC has also reiterated its clear position that the existence of boxing in the Olympic programme at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, and even the acknowledgement of AIBA as an international federation recognised by the IOC, is under threat, if the governance issues are not addressed properly and to the full satisfaction of the IOC.

Rakhimov’s interim position will be confirmed at the upcoming AIBA Congress in Moscow starting on 2 November 2018.

Whereas Rakhimov faced a challenger for the position earlier in the race, the Kazakh Serik Konakbayev, who won an Olympic silver medal for the USSR back in 1980, he now remains the only candidate. Since the AIBA Statutes stipulate that there is no vote if there is only one candidate, Rakhimov’s Presidency will be undisputed within the AIBA.

Finally, in its statement, the IOC voiced their support for the boxers themselves in the following categorical terms:

“At the same time, we would like to reassure the athletes that the IOC will – as it has always done in such situations and is currently doing at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 – do its upmost to ensure that the athletes do not have to suffer under these circumstances and that we will protect their Olympic dream.”

In May of this year, an AIBA progress report did not satisfy the IOC which then said it would review the issue after the AIBA Congress and elections for the President starting on 2 November 2018 in Moscow. This actual development and the safe election of the controversial President will not strengthen the AIBA position for the upcoming reassessment of the situation by the IOC.

For the fans of sport in general, it would be a shame if boxing, one of the oldest and most traditional Olympic sports, were to disappear from the Olympic programme.

From the legal perspective, it may be permissible to deny IOC recognition to an association for non-compliance with the IOC rules. But, from our point of view, however, it is highly questionable not to admit an athlete to the Olympic Games solely on the ground that the association, of which he is a member, is driven by bad governance.

If that happens, the IOC must keep its word and “protect the Olympic dream” of all the affected athletes by admitting them to the Games despite the exclusion of their international association.

 

Dr. Thilo Pachmann and Alexander Theiler may contacted by e-mail at ‘thilo.pachmann@pachmannlaw.ch’ and ‘alexander.theiler@pachmannlaw.ch’