Box­ing’s new leader fights to keep spot in 2020 Games in Tokyo

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Weather - BY GRAHAM DUN­BAR

With as few as six weeks left to save box­ing’s place at the 2020 Olympics, the gov­ern­ing body’s new in­terim pres­i­dent is in the IOC’s home city for the fi­nal rounds of lob­by­ing.

A long-time ring­side doc­tor, Mo­hamed Mous­tah­sane stepped into the arena last month as the In­ter­na­tional Box­ing As­in­terim so­ci­a­tion’s (AIBA) tem­po­rary leader af­ter elected pres­i­dent Ga­fur Rakhi­mov stepped aside.

Rakhi­mov’s sta­tus on a U.S. Trea­sury De­part­ment sanc­tions list – with al­leged links to in­ter­na­tional heroin traf­fick­ing which he de­nies – is part of an In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee in­quiry ex­am­in­ing box­ing’s place on the Tokyo Games pro­gram, and the AIBA’s right to run the sport.

“Mr. Rakhi­mov did a great job since he was pres­i­dent (in Jan­uary 2018) and we thank him for that,” Mous­tah­sane told the Associated Press on Fri­day. “But AIBA is now go­ing for­ward.”

The Moroc­c­can doc­tor said he had not yet met Ne­nad Lalovic, the IOC ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber chair­ing a three-mem­ber in­quiry, nor the Olympic body’s pres­i­dent Thomas Bach.

“We are con­fi­dent they are work­ing for the best in­ter­ests of the sport,” Mous­tah­sane said dur­ing an in­ter­view.

Two dead­lines weigh heav­ily in the AIBA’s near fu­ture.

A May 22 meet­ing of the IOC board to as­sess the in­quiry panel’s re­port could see box­ing re­moved from the Tokyo pro­gram, or choose to go ahead out­side the AIBA’s con­trol. Bach’s board de­cided dur­ing Novem­ber to freeze plan­ning for men’s and women’s box­ing tour­na­ments in Tokyo and block AIBA of­fi­cials con­tact­ing or­ga­niz­ers in Ja­pan.

The AIAB also could be for­mally dere­c­og­nized by the full IOC mem­ber­ship at their June 24-26 an­nual meet­ing in Lausanne.

Rakhi­mov helped ne­go­ti­ate a set­tle­ment with the AIBA’s main cred­i­tor, in Azer­bai­jan, be­fore he for­mally was elected pres­i­dent dur­ing Novem­ber by mem­ber fed­er­a­tions. That vote trig­gered an in­quiry panel be­ing cre­ated by the IOC, which pri­vately warned the AIBA against elect­ing him.

Mous­tah­sane step­ping into the pres­i­den­tial seat for up to nine months is seen by some skep­tics as a tac­tic to pla­cate the IOC be­fore a Rakhi­mov re­turn.

Asked if Rakhi­mov stay­ing out of of­fice could be a con­di­tion of keep­ing box­ing in the Olympics, Mous­tah­sane said: “The IOC have never said that there’s a red line. Mr. Rakhi­mov stepped aside so we don’t have to dis­cuss this is­sue now.”

The IOC also is con­cerned about the in­tegrity of some bout re­sults at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the AIBA’s fi­nances.

Mous­tah­sane chaired a panel al­lo­cat­ing ref­er­ees and judges to bouts in Rio, though then-AIBA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Karim Bouzidi was de­moted dur­ing those Olympics and took the blame.

“We turned the page and saw that there was some­thing to do im­prove our sport,” Mous­tah­sane said, in­sist­ing he saw no wrong­do­ing in Rio and pre­ferred to look for­ward rather than “stay on the past.”

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