The International Olympic Committee froze preparations for boxing at the 2020 Games on Friday and launched a probe into the sport’s troubled governing body, warning that it could be stripped of the ability to organise the competition.
The IOC stressed that it still wanted boxing to go ahead at Tokyo 2020 but said its inquiry into the International Boxing Association (AIBA) “can lead to the withdrawal of (its) recognition”.
But the IOC said it would make “all efforts to protect the athletes and ensure that a boxing tournament can take place at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 regardless of these measures”.
It added that it still had concerns over the “governance, ethics and financial management” of AIBA, which last month elected as president a controversial Uzbek businessman linked to organised crime by the US Treasury Department, a claim he denies.
IOC sports director Kit McConnell said qualifying for the 2020 boxing tournament had been put on hold, making it the only sport not to have its qualifiers approved.
“We are not going ahead, while the inquiry is under way, with any qualification system for the Olympic boxing competition in Tokyo,” McConnell said.
Relations between the IOC and AIBA took a dive at the 2016 Rio Olympics when 36 officials and referees were suspended amid allegations of bout fixing. Ties were further battered earlier this month when AIBA elected Gafur Rakhimov as leader, who strenuously rejects the charges from the US Treasury Department.
AIBA made a last-ditch bid to persuade the IOC that it had cleaned up its act, issuing a flurry of statements lauding its own efforts on financing and judging. 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.
AIBA submitted a report to the IOC in April with reforms it hoped would placate Olympic officials, but IOC president Thomas Bach said it “lacked execution and substance in some areas”.
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.
Several famous boxers have made their debut on the world stage in the Olympic Ring. An 18-year-old called Cassius Clay won gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics, kickstarting the career of a boxer who would become Muhammad Ali, considered the greatest of all time.
Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Leon Spinks are all other celebrated names in the boxing world who got their break at the Olympics.