TOKYO – Boxing's Olympic future came under the spotlight Friday as top officials decide whether to punish the sport's governing body, which is on the ropes over finances, judging and its controversial leader.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made clear that boxing's future at the Tokyo 2020 Games could be facing a knockout blow amid serious concerns over governance at the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
Boxing already incurred the IOC's wrath at the last Games in Rio, when all 36 officials and referees were suspended amid allegations of bout fixing.
And relations have not been improved by the election earlier this month of Uzbek businessman Gafur Rakhimov, who has been linked to organised crime by the US Treasury Department. Rakhimov strenuously denies the allegations.
President Thomas Bach confirmed Thursday the IOC's Executive Board would examine a report by AIBA on how they had cleaned up their act.
But Bach said earlier this year that a previous report in April "lacks execution and substance in some areas."
Bach has also stressed that he will not allow competitors to suffer from the "bad behaviour of some officials," suggesting the IOC is not ready to completely throw in the towel on the boxing competition at Tokyo 2020.
"Irrespective of the decision taken... we will make the necessary efforts to ensure that athletes have the possibility to pursue their Olympic journey," said Bach.
'Turn the page'
The AIBA has insisted in statements released in the run-up to the Tokyo meeting that it has made the necessary improvements.
It said a new judging system brought in after the Rio scandal had been "positively received by athletes and technical officials alike."
The association also said that it had restored its finances to a healthy level and implemented "stringent" new controls to turn the page on previous mismanagement.
"The fear of going bankrupt due to past financial mismanagement is now far behind us," said Rakhimov in a statement released on Thursday. "It is time to turn the page and look further to the development of boxing worldwide," added the 67-year-old.
Earlier this month, Rakhimov insisted that boxing had "exceeded" the governance requirements that threaten its future at the Games.
The sport is also "100 percent compliant with anti-doping rules" - another concern from the IOC.
Boxing has an ancient Olympic tradition and was introduced to the Ancient Games by the Greeks in the seventh century B.C., according to the IOC website.
It made its debut at the modern games in St. Louis in 1904 and has featured at every Olympics since, apart from the Stockholm Games of 1912 because Swedish law at the time banned the sport.
"We have no doubt that boxing will be at the Olympics" in 2020, said Alberto Puig, president of the boxing federation in Cuba, which has a proud Olympic boxing tradition.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)