AIBA suspended from IOC

ROGEN Ladon of the Philippines (right) pushes Jasurbek Latipov of Uzbekistan to the corner during the flyweight gold medal match in the 18th Asian Games boxing competition in Jakarta in this file photo.

The future of Association of the Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) hangs in limbo after its governing body – the International Boxing Association (AIBA) – lost its membership in the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In a move that no longer came as a surprise, IOC president Thomas Bach suspended AIBA following months of investigation done by the IOC Inquiry Committee headed by Nenad Lalovic of Serbia.

Bach said they could no longer recognize AIBA as the existence of its president, Gafur Rakhimov of Uzbekistan, exposes the world’s highest sports body to “serious legal, financial risks” due to his involvement in an international criminal group that operates in Central Asia known as “Brother’s Circle.”

Although Rakhimov strongly denied the accusation and no charges have been filed against him, the United States Department of Treasury still included him in its “sanction list,” making it extremely difficult for AIBA and the IOC to transact with the American government and potential sponsors.

The IOC will formalize this decision in its general assembly on 24 to 26 June in a general membership meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

With AIBA already disenfranchised, the IOC will create a task force that will supervise the staging of the boxing events in the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Gymnastics chief Morinari Watanabe of Japan was named as chairman of the task force that would also oversee the Olympic qualifying system from January to May next year since the IOC will no longer recognize all qualifying tournaments organized by the embattled international federation (IF).

Big impact

A seasoned sport official said this development might have a massive impact on ABAP’s standing with the POC.

Speaking on condition of anonymity pending the release of a formal communiqué from the IOC, the source said the POC’s major requirement for membership is recognition from its IF.

“Without an IF recognition, the POC could not recognize an NSA (national sport association) that wishes to apply,” said the source, an old hand in both local and international sports.

“In ABAP’s case, I think its POC membership should be revoked since its IF is no longer recognized by the IOC. How can it operate as a regular member of the POC if it no longer has an international body?”

Interestingly, POC president Ricky Vargas is the ABAP chief.

His trusted men in the POC leadership are boxing officials as well. POC secretary general Patrick Gregorio holds the same position at ABAP while POC communications director Ed Picson mans the day-to-day operations of the boxing body as executive director.

“ABAP is connected with AIBA. Once AIBA has been disenfranchised, boxing federations all over the world under it would be disenfranchised by their respective NOCs as well,” the source said, adding that they are all waiting for guidelines from the IOC on how they will treat the case of boxing.

“Remember that body building also used to be part of the IOC,” he said.

“But when the IOC withdrew its recognition, the POC had no choice but also to revoke the membership of the body building federation here in the country.”

Waiting for memo

But Picson contested the claim.

He asserted that the AIBA suspension would have no impact on the legality of their existence since boxing will still be played in the Tokyo Olympics, although under a different entity which is the IOC task force.

Boxers have been consistent medal winners for Team Philippines in various international tournaments.

In the previous Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, the national boxers delivered two gold, one silver and two bronze medals. This was followed by one silver and two bronze-medal finish in the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta last year in which Rogen Ladon surrendered the mint in the flyweight division to Jasurbek Latipov of Uzbekistan in controversial fashion.

But the sport has been hounded with controversies as match-fixing, gambling, bad officiating and rise to power of shady leaders prompted the IOC to come up with an investigation.

Picson said they would continue working while waiting for a formal communication from the IOC whether they will also be part of the suspension or not.

“I think the IOC will issue a clarification on this since all national federations are also in the same situation as well,” said Picson.

“But clearly, the POC cannot just have any group represent the Philippines in boxing. ABAP is still the only recognized organization for boxing by the government (per the Philippine Sports Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission), unless declared otherwise by the POC.”

In a statement, Vargas lauded the IOC’s effort to clean boxing.

“I am happy to note that the athletes are protected from the organizational and political issues AIBA face,” he said.

“I am also relieved that boxers are allowed to compete and boxing retains its rightful place in the Olympics.”

IOC representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski is already in Lausanne and is expected to give an update on the status of boxing as soon as possible.