Boxing chief Rakhimov: "I've never had criminal involvement"

4 min

Buenos Aires (AFP)

Gafur Rakhimov, the interim president of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), whose sport has been threatened with expulsion from the Olympics, has told AFP he has "never been involved in transnational criminal organisations."

In an exclusive written response to questions from AFP, Rakhimov said he was "sorting out the mess" and added "I hope that I will not be the only candidate for president" in the upcoming AIBA election.

On Friday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was "freezing contacts" with AIBA and would refuse Rakhimov accreditation for the Youth Olympics, starting on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

Rakhimov, from Uzbekistan, has been interim president of AIBA since January, replacing CK Wu who was ousted late last year.

AIBA has not ratified any other candidates and under its constitution that means Rakhimov will be elected by acclaim at the conference in Moscow on November 2-3.

The IOC on Wednesday listed its concerns with AIBA's governance saying "these include the circumstances of the establishment of the election list."

Rakhimov said he was trapped by the constitution drawn up by the previous leadership.

"These somewhat bizarre regulations, which were prepared and put in place by the former President and his Executive Director, also had the objective of making it difficult for others than the leadership to run for positions in AIBA," he wrote.

"We in the new leadership of AIBA could not change these regulations prior to our congress next month, because only the congress has the authority to do so."

Rakhimov said he could not interfere with the AIBA Election Committee, but he had "asked our lawyers and the administration to see if anything can be done to eliminate such doubts or questions, and if possible allow for more potential candidates to run."

- 'Allegations are false' -

In a letter to Rakhimov in August, Paquerette Girard Zappelli, the IOC Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, referred to a "decision by the US Department of The Treasury to consider you as part of, or linked to, two transnational criminal organisations."

Rakhimov said: "This of course made me very sad and it has been stressful - not least for my family.

"I felt that it would not help AIBA and the boxers worldwide if I should spend time and energy on responding to this, no matter how unfair and insulting it appeared to me. Instead I spend my all my days – and many nights – sorting out the mess that the former AIBA leadership had left behind.

"The truth is that I, of course, have never been involved in transnational criminal organisations or whatever has been said about me."

He said he had been framed by political enemies in Uzbekistan who "provided all the false allegations about me to the US Department of The Treasury."

"It is a complicated process to get off such list.

"I am very confident that the mistake will be corrected within the next three to six months."

Despite the scepticism of the IOC, Rakhimov said he was reforming AIBA.

"Within just eight months, my colleagues in the Executive Committee and I have made so many important changes and improvement to our governance system, our anti-doping work and our judging and refereeing system."

Boxing, especially during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, has faced suspicions of match fixing, leading to the suspension of referees and judges.

In Buenos Aires, the IOC has insisted on "independent oversight" of judging and referees.

Rakhimov insisted this apparent lack of trust was a positive.

"Here, IOC has provided us with external observers to make sure that our new standards and regulations are fully implemented."

The previous president, Wu, has been suspended for life by the new AIBA leadership.

"As a result of an unbelievable level of financial mismanagement by the former president and his executive director, AIBA faced an extremely difficult situation beginning of this year," Rakhimov wrote.

"I will not go into details, but we are talking about tens of millions of dollars being spent on fantasy projects or simply disappearing.

"It was somehow unreal – but unfortunately it was reality and yes, by the end of last year we were just days away from a bankrupt AIBA. But we were able to sort it out and get agreements with all creditors and investors."

Even though the IOC is threatening amateur boxing with banishment, Rakhimov said: "After all the cleaning-up and all the difficulties we had to deal with, we now must allow ourselves also to look forward and to dream."

He finished with words he ascribed to the most famous Olympic boxer of all.

"And here I really like the quote from the great champ Muhammad Ali: 'If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough.'"