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Boxing Could Face Olympics KO Over Uzbek Man's Prominent Role


AIBA President Gafur Rakhimov speaks to the press in Tashkent in July.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is threatening to drop boxing from the Olympics over "extreme concern" that an Uzbek businessman accused of having ties to organized crime is running unopposed to become president of the amateur boxing association.

The Olympic governing body's concerns came to light on October 3 after a list of "approved candidates" from the boxing association named Uzbek businessman Gafur Rakhimov as the only choice for the presidency to be voted on at next month's congress of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in Moscow.

It wasn't immediately clear why a rival candidate, former Olympic medalist Serik Konakbayev, didn't make the list.

Rakhimov was described by the U.S. Treasury Department last year as "one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade." Rakhimov has denied the charges.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control froze Rakhimov's assets in the United States and prohibited Americans from "conducting financial or other transactions" with him.

Following the announcement that Rakhimov would run unopposed, the IOC said its board "expressed its ongoing extreme concern with the grave situation" within the AIBA and "its current governance."

"Such behavior is affecting not just the reputation of AIBA and boxing, but of sport in general," the IOC said.

Unless the governance issues are "addressed to the satisfaction of the IOC," the committee said, "the existence of boxing on the Olympic program and even the recognition of AIBA...are under threat."

Since February, the IOC has warned boxing could be jettisoned from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The sport has been on the program at every Olympics since 1920 despite regular controversies over judging and allegations of fixed bouts.

Rakhimov has been serving as interim president of AIBA after the long-serving C.K. Wu resigned last year following internal disputes and allegations of financial problems at the governing body, which oversees amateur boxing and Olympic events.

The AIBA executive committee recently voted to suspend one of Rakhimov's most influential opponents within the association, Franco Falcinelli, the head of the European Boxing Confederation.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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