MOSCOW (Reuters) – Uzbek businessman Gafur Rahimov was elected president of the international boxing association AIBA on Saturday, TASS news agency said, despite his presence on a U.S. sanctions list.
His election is likely to fall foul of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is currently weighing up the future of boxing as an Olympic sport due to ongoing issues with AIBA’s finances and governance.
The IOC has previously criticised AIBA, the worldwide governing body for amateur boxing, for its decision to place Rahimov at the helm in January as interim president.
Rahimov, 67, is on the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions list “for providing material support” to a criminal organisation, a claim he strongly denies.
“Such behaviour is affecting not just the reputation of AIBA and boxing but of sport in general,” the IOC said in October.
On Saturday, TASS said Rahimov received 86 votes from 137 delegates of the AIBA Congress, which is being held in Moscow.
He beat Kazakh former boxer and Olympic silver medallist Serik Konakbayev for the association’s top job.
“By the end of 2017, AIBA was not just in a dangerous position but, let’s be frank, it was simply on the verge of self-destruction and financial bankruptcy,” TASS cited Rahimov as saying after the vote.
“It is for the sake of boxing and the future of our organisation that I agreed not only to temporarily act as its head in January this year, but also decided to put myself forward for the role of president,” Rahimov was quoted as saying.
Earlier on Saturday, Rahimov said that he would be willing to step down if his role as president threatened the future of AIBA in any way, TASS reported.
“No one – and that includes all candidates for the top job – should stand in the way of the development of boxing,” he was quoted as saying.
AIBA has been in turmoil for several years. Former president Wu Ching-kuo was suspended in 2017 before stepping down. He was briefly replaced by Franco Falcinelli before Rahimov became interim president in January.
The IOC has warned that AIBA must sort out its finances and governance problems, as well as anti-doping issues in the sport, or risk missing out on the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“The IOC reiterates its clear position that if the governance issues are not properly addressed to the satisfaction of the IOC at the forthcoming AIBA Congress, the existence of boxing on the Olympic Program and even the recognition of AIBA as an International Federation recognised by the IOC is under threat,” the IOC said.
It has also said that it is looking at ways in which athletes can still take part in the Games and not be punished for the mistakes of their governing body.
“We have a clear and exact plan for the future development of AIBA, which we plan to return to life in the interests and for the benefit of the entire boxing community,” TASS cited Rahimov as saying on Saturday.
(Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Ken Ferris)