May 6, 2019 / 9:46 AM / 19 days ago

Olympics: Bach boxing comments undervalue International Federations - AIBA chief

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The executive director of AIBA, the governing body of amateur boxing, has hit out at Olympic chief Thomas Bach for suggesting putting together an alternative organization to run the sport at next year’s Tokyo Games would “not be rocket science”.

FILE PHOTO: Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attends a news conference after an Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

AIBA faces expulsion from the Olympic movement after an inquiry into its finances and governance reports at the end of the month, potentially leaving in limbo the boxing competition at the 2020 Summer Games.

International Olympic Committee President Bach said on Saturday that alternative arrangements could be put in place to ensure boxing retained its spot at the Games and made light of concerns about the lack of time available to do so.

“I heard Mr Bach’s comment and it was very concerning because it certainly minimized what work goes into the preparation for such monumental event,” Tom Virgets told Reuters by telephone on Monday.

“That wasn’t just minimizing us, that was minimizing every IF (International Federation).

“I would certainly hope that was just a bad choice of words, I hope he is not that far removed from the work of Olympic programs that he actually believes that.

“The Olympics needs IFs and we should not forget that.”

While the IOC organizes the Olympic Games as a whole, the federations, who are gathering this week on Australia’s Gold Coast for their annual Sportaccord summit, run their own sports competitions within that framework.

Expulsion from the IOC when the inquiry reports to the executive board on May 22 would rob AIBA of its main source of funding and be a devastating blow to the body which has organized Olympic boxing for 73 years.

LEGAL ACTION

Reports in Europe at the weekend said AIBA interim president Mohamed Moustahsane was proposing a vote of the executive committee on taking legal action and making formal complaints against some IOC members should the decision go against them.

“When you are faced with a significant issue like this, it would be irresponsible if the executive committee was not taking a look at all of its options and making a determination of what was in the best interests of the organization,” Virgets added.

“To me, this should not be looked as AIBA being defiant, no! AIBA is practising proper and good governance. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do?”

Moustahsane took charge in March when Gafur Rahimov suspended himself from the post because of his presence on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list ‘for providing material support’ to a criminal organization.

The Uzbek strongly denies the allegations.

Virgets does not shy away from the fact that AIBA was an ‘absolute mess’ before a reform process commenced 18 months ago but he believes the IOC inquiry lacks ‘due process’ and risked producing a ‘one-sided, biased report’.

The American believes AIBA have done everything asked of them by the IOC to sort out the problems that bedevilled the organization and are willing to do more if shortcomings are pointed out to them.

AIBA will have a chance to give verbal testimony to the inquiry in addition to the 7,000 pages of documents they have already submitted, but Virgets believes there will not be enough time to sufficiently inform the IOC’s decision.

“We will have approximately two hours to address all the concerns of this inquiry committee and then, less than 36 hours later, they give a report,” he said.

“Considering the monumental decision, shouldn’t we be given more time to talk? And shouldn’t the executive board have an opportunity to address AIBA to give us an opportunity to rebut?

“We just find this inappropriate.”

Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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