Russian official offers $16M in exchange for keeping boxing in the Olympics

International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams, left, and IOC President Thomas Bach, second from left, wait for Tokyo 2020 Olympic delegates prior to an IOC Executive Board meeting Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, in Tokyo. The IOC said boxing will take place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But exactly who runs the tournament and the details of qualifying are up in the air because of charges of corruption and malfeasance surrounding the boxing federation that runs the sport at the Olympics. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams, left, and IOC President Thomas Bach, will determine who runs the boxing event at the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Boxing is in danger of being dropped from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic slate after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opened an inquiry into the embattled governing body late last year.

The inquiry into the International Boxing Association (AIBA) came after its members went against IOC warnings and elected a man accused of trafficking heroin. Though that’s far from the only issue the organization needs to address, including its finances.

Umar Kremlev, an AIBA executive committee member, made the offer of $16 million to clear the organization’s debts if the IOC keeps the sport in the next Olympics under the AIBA umbrella.

Boxing in a battle

The issues with the AIBA are long-ranging and include leaders with connections to crime organizations, controversial judging decisions and overall corruption.

Gafur Rakhimov was elected in November 2018 as the AIBA president despite the IOC’s warnings against it. The U.S. Treasury Department alleges he is a member of the Brother’s Circle, an organized crime group the department believes is involved in international heroin smuggling, according to Forbes.The department barred U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with him, per the AP.

Nothing is proven and Rakhimov has denied all allegations, which forced him to miss the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. He said last week he would step down amid the investigation, according to reports, but did not resign from the post.

The IOC will deliver its final report May 22 into the organization. It can decide to drop the sport from the Tokyo schedule or develop a plan for tournaments and qualifying events without involvement by AIBA. In June, the IOC can vote to de-recognize AIBA.

AIBA put forth plans detailing how it would improve management, finances and fight judges as it attempts to avoid any sanctions and get answers for its boxers. The sport has been a pivotal part of the Games since 1904. Losing it would also hurt TV ratings, Forbes speculates.

2016 Games proved controversial

The issues stem back to some embarrassments at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where all 36 judges and referees were suspended by AIBA.

The two main cases, detailed by Forbes, involve Russians winning controversial decisions.

Ireland’s Michael Conlan lost a controversial decision to Russian Vladimir Nikitin and gave judges the middle finger before ranting about corruption. The Irish team boxing manager claimed in a three-page report reviewed by The Irish Times last March that the match was fixed and Conlan’s chances “gone” before he stepped into the ring.

Evgeny Tishchenko won the heavyweight gold even though Kazakh boxer Vasily Levit was considered the winner by observers. Tishchenko suffered a cut on his head and fought from his back foot for most of the bout. His coach even suggested in post-match comments that the Russian should not have won.

Scandals over judging came up again at the Asian Games in September, per Forbes, and two North Korean coaches were removed from the arena by police when they protested decisions.

Kremlev offers to clear debt

An AIBA interim audit report released Wednesday showed the organization went from losing $2 million a year to a “positive cash flow.” Yet it still has debts of $16 million and, per the report, is “dependent on the Olympic dollars in order to secure its future.” De-recognizing the organization would pull that funding indefinitely.

AIBA announced it intends to lower operating expenses by 50 percent and create positive equity by 2024. It alleged it could only do that if the sport were a part of the games, per Reuters.

Kremlev, an AIBA executive committee member and secretary general of the Russian boxing federation, wants to make a deal.

“I am ready to close all the debts of AIBA in full, so long as our favorite sport remains in the Olympic program,” Kremlev wrote, according to the statement given to The Associated Press.

Kremlev did not say where the money would come from, per the report.

AIBA executive director Tom Virgets told insidethegames he was “sincerely grateful” for the offer, but did not solicit it.

"We are very blessed to have a member in our AIBA family with such philanthropic heart," Virgets said.

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