Monday 21 October 2019

Ireland's Olympic medal hopes could receive huge blow with boxing facing expulsion from Tokyo 2020

Katie Taylor celebrates after winning gold at the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Katie Taylor celebrates after winning gold at the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrick

Ireland's most successful Olympic sport, boxing, is facing expulsion from the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The world governing body of the sport AIBA, has defied repeated warnings from the International Olympic Committee and elected Gafur Rakhimov as the permanent President of the organisation at a Congress in Moscow.

Rakhimov is a controversial figure due to his alleged links to organised crime in central Asia– which he denies – has been named by the US Treasury as a person who is associated with a gang involved in the transportation and sale of heroin. He is also banned from entering many countries including the United States, Argentina and Australia.

The President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach had earned that Rakhimov's election as President could put boxing's place in Toyko in jeopardy. He said boxing's Olympic future 'greatly depended' on the outcome of the Congress election.

But despite these stark warnings delegates backed Rakhimov. In a chaotic election – it was decided to scrap the planned electrical voting system and replay it with a paper ballot at the last minute - he received 86 out of the 134 votes cast, comfortably defeating the other only candidate, former Olympic boxing medallist Serik Konakbayev from Kazakhstan.

Prior to his election Rakhimov had offered to temporarily step aside in order to avoid a showdown with the International Olympic Committee but this was rejected by delegates.

Ireland was represented as the Congress by the President of the IABA Dominic O'Rourke, secretary Art O'Brien and chief executive Fergal Carruth. The latter declined to reveal which candidate Ireland supported in the election.

The ball is now back in the court of the IOC. It is believe that they may suspend AIBA – which would result in the cash strapped organisation losing sixty percent of its funding – and attempt to set up a rival body which would run the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Games as well as the qualification events.

Such a route is fraught with difficulties, however, and it is certain it would be legally challenged by the AIBA. Meanwhile, it is the boxers who are caught in a row which could spell the death-knell of amateur boxing if it ultimately results in no boxing in the Tokyo Olympics.

Ireland has won 16 Olympic boxing medals with Michael Carruth and Katie Taylor claiming gold medals in Barcelona (1992) and London (2012) respectively.

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