August 3, 2021

Boxing, organized crime and the IOC …

For those who haven’t followed this mind-boggling affair, a quick reminder:

– In 2016, shortly before the start of the Rio Games, the British daily The Guardian had published a shocking article announcing that matches in the Olympic boxing tournament were rigged in advance and that judges had already met to determine the eventual winners.

– The boxing tournament was indeed the scene of fighting, the results of which were implausible, which sparked a corruption scandal. Many judges and referees were dismissed during the Games, but not necessarily those who had officiated the disputed fights.

– In 2017, a year and a half after the Games, the president of AIBA, the Taiwanese Wu Ching-kuo (in office since 2006) was ejected. AIBA was literally bankrupt and $ 10 million borrowed from an Azerbaijani company had disappeared from the books.

– Wu was then replaced by an interim president, the Italian Franco Falcinelli. However, in early 2018, less than three months after his appointment, Falcinelli mysteriously resigned to make way for Russian / Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov. However, Rakhimov is identified by several organizations or countries (such as Interpol, the United States Department of State and Great Britain) as being a member of the Russian mafia and as one of the most important heroin traffickers in the United States. world. Just that!

An Italian media, DataSport, has also revealed that just before resigning, Falcinelli had received at his home a visit from a “Russian delegation” eager to see him give up his place.

– Interestingly, Rakhimov’s appointment last January was enthusiastically supported by the President of the Canadian Amateur Boxing Federation, Pat Fiacco.

– Around the world, this open takeover of an Olympic sport by an organized crime lord caused a stir. Over the past year, the IOC has repeatedly threatened to remove boxing from the Tokyo 2020 Games program if Rakhimov is retained as AIBA presidency and important reforms are not undertaken to restore the integrity of this federation. The IOC also turned off the tap and stopped paying any subsidies to AIBA.

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A boxing match at the Olympic Games in Rio between Uzbek Shakhobidin Zoirov and Russian Misha Aloian

Photo : Reuters

This week, the British site InsideTheGames revealed that Gafur Rakhimov will be the only candidate for the presidency of AIBA at the next congress, in Moscow (funny coincidence), at the beginning of November.

In the last month, the Italian Falcinelli sent a letter to all the national federations. He invited them to save Olympic boxing by voting for Rahkimov’s opponent, Kazakh Serik Kanakbayev.

Falcinelli, who is a very influential figure on the European boxing scene, has since been banned from AIBA. Rakhimov’s close guard accuses him of having violated any rule of the code of ethics. As for Kanakbayev, AIBA rejects his candidacy! Mysteriously, it seems, the letters of support from the countries which supported him for the presidency arrived at the headquarters of the federation in Lausanne, a few hours after the deadline set in the statutes of the federation.

While at it, AIBA literally kicked Kanakbayev out of his seat as vice-president. The names of two potential replacements were listed on the November convention ballots.

Talk about bad luck! Suddenly there is no one left to stand against Rakhimov.

According to the site CrimeRussia, who is interested in the dealings of major Russian criminals, Gafur Rakhimov has no less than five Uzbek passports, a Russian passport and a United Arab Emirates citizenship card. He resides in Dubai in an area where the average house price is US $ 119 million. In organized crime, he is best known by one of his other five identities: Gafur Cherny.

Despite all the external pressures pushing him towards the exit, Rakhimov remains unmoved. “We will not let rumors taint the AIBA democratic process,” he wrote, in response to IOC threats to exclude boxing from the Olympics if he remains in charge.

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New AIBA President Gafur Rahimov and Franco FalcinelliView larger image (New window)

New AIBA President Gafur Rahimov and Franco Falcinelli

Photo : AIBA

How could such a guy have ended up at the head of an international federation? The question is rather how Rakhimov could have gravitated in the world of Olympism for so long.

Because of his ties to the underworld, he was denied access to Australian territory at the Sydney Games in 2000, even though he was vice-president of the Olympic Council of Asia.

Seven years later, he was established by the Russian Olympic Committee as one of the main responsible for awarding the 2014 Winter Games to the city of Sochi. His interventions with many Asian countries had tipped the scales in favor of Russia, it was said.

According to CrimeRussia, Rakhimov’s influence was rewarded by awarding contracts for the construction of Olympic infrastructure to one of his friends. Then, for the past 15 years, no one seemed to be concerned that Rakhimov had held a vice president position at AIBA or that he was the head of the Russian Boxing Federation.

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The ease with which Russia extricated itself from the great doping scandal of the Sochi Games (around 1,000 Russian athletes were doped and foiled the controls with the help of the state) speaks volumes about the influence exerted this country within the Olympic movement.

However, the case of the takeover of AIBA does not seem unique. German journalist Hajo Seppelt, who is interested in cases of doping and corruption in sport, has just revealed that the International Shooting Federation (ISSF), which is an Olympic sport, is experiencing an episode almost identical to that of the boxing.

Outgoing ISSF President Olegario Vazquez Rana, an 83-year-old Mexican, has announced that he wants to be replaced by Russian billionaire Vladimir Lisin. The latter, a steel tycoon, is said to be Russia’s richest citizen. His fortune is estimated at over $ 20 billion. However, the Italian Luciano Rossi has also decided to run for the presidency of the ISSF.

When his candidacy became known, Rossi was suspended from the ISSF for three years by a supposedly independent ethics committee. The Italian, whose candidacy was nevertheless endorsed by 23 countries spread over 6 continents, was thus disqualified for the election at the end of November. Isn’t that disturbing?

Ultimately, Luciano Rossi took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His suspension has been reduced and he will effectively face Lisin in the election. But the Italian will face great adversity.

Mikaela Joslin Mayer (left) in a fight against Jennifer Chieng during the Rio Olympics in 2016View larger image (New window)

Mikaela Joslin Mayer (left) in a fight against Jennifer Chieng during the Rio Olympics in 2016

Photo : The Associated Press / Frank Franklin II

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As the election of Gafur Rakhimov as AIBA President seems assured, the IOC does not have many options. Either Thomas Bach agrees to do business with a notorious criminal (imagine the damage), or he simply removes him from the picture.

The IOC Executive Committee was meeting in Buenos Aires on Thursday afternoon. It appears that upon reflection, the idea of ​​excluding boxing from the Tokyo 2020 Games program has been dropped.

To avoid punishing the athletes for wrongdoing for which they are not responsible, the IOC instead plans to no longer recognize AIBA as an international federation and to entrust the organization of the Olympic boxing tournament to another body. And why not? The AIBA is so rotten, both economically and sportingly, that any attempt at recovery appears doomed to failure.

“The international federations are independent from the IOC, but it goes both ways. The IOC is also autonomous and free to choose the program of the Games as well as the partners with which it associates. Nothing obliges us to join forces with a federation which has governance problems and which could tarnish the reputation of the Games or of other international federations, ”Thomas Bach pleaded on Thursday.

We live in a time when the Olympic ideal is severely abused.