Boxing - AIBA says has made 'incredible progress' amid Olympic uncertainty

Boxing - AIBA says has made 'incredible progress' amid Olympic uncertainty
FILE PHOTO: Michael Conlan of Ireland and Vladimir Nikitin of Russia compete in Olympic boxing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 16/08/2016. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra Copyright Peter Cziborra(Reuters)
By Reuters
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By Brian Homewood

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Amateur boxing's governing body (AIBA) says it has made "incredible progress" towards sorting out its financial and governance issues after being warned that it could miss out on next year's Olympic Games.

AIBA's executive director Tom Virgets conceded to reporters on Tuesday that the association had been an "absolute mess" at one point and was lucky not to have lost International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition.

But, as AIBA prepared to send a report to an IOC inquiry committee on Thursday, Virgets said that "significant strides" had been made.

The IOC's Executive Board said in November that planning for the Olympic boxing tournament had been frozen and contact suspended between AIBA and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.

The IOC also launched an inquiry into Swiss-based AIBA which has been in turmoil for years, with doubts about its financial viability.

The IOC has also noted that AIBA president Gafur Rahimov, elected in November, is on the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions list "for providing material support" to a criminal organisation, a claim the Uzbek strongly denies.

"AIBA has been an easy target and that is a position we have earned," said Virgets, who was appointed in March. "We were an absolute mess... quite frankly, the IOC should have thrown us out around 2014/15."

However, he added: "we have made incredible progress over the last months as an organisation and I'm not sure that has been recognised."

Virgets said that AIBA had beefed up its anti-doping programme and was "100 percent in compliance" with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) standards.

This compared to the situation in 2014 when he said that AIBA had conducted only three out-of-competition tests, a number he said was "absolutely unacceptable."

"WADA should have thrown us under the bus," he added.

Virgets said that AIBA had also addressed concerns over judging of bouts by reverting to five judges instead of three, with the panels drawn randomly by a computer.

Boxers had also been given the right to protest decisions, he said, though these must by "specific" and timely.

On the financial front, he said that AIBA's debt had been reduced from $18 million (14 million pounds) last year to $15.6 million this year, and that it would be wiped out within four years if boxing was included in next year's Olympics.

AIBA's four-yearly non-Olympic income of $20 million could be "easily" increased to around 30 million, he added.

Virgets said that spending was also under control -- another concern after AIBA spent all its $20 million revenue from the 2016 Olympic Games in less than two years.

"All of the money that was supposed to last from 2016 to 2020, we had spent by mid 2017," he said, adding that this year's budget had been cut to $5.7 million.


He added that Rahimov had never been indicted or convicted and was fighting to have his name removed from the U.S. Treasury Department list.

"We have a president who, under his leadership, has moved this organisation in a positive direction for the first time since before 2014," he added.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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