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Russian offers $16M to keep boxing in Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — A Russian official has offered to pay the International Boxing Association’s $16 million debt if the IOC keeps the sport in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Umar Kremlev, an AIBA executive committee member, made the offer in a letter to senior IOC officials overseeing an investigation into the embattled Lausanne-based boxing body.

The Russian boxing federation released extracts Thursday at the same time the International Olympic Committee executive board discussed the ongoing AIBA inquiry. Issues include elected AIBA president Gafur Rakhimov, who American authorities say is an international heroin trafficker.

“I am ready to close all the debts of AIBA in full, so long as our favorite sport remains in the Olympic program,” Kremlev wrote, according to the statement, which did not specify a source for the money.

Kremlev has been secretary general of the Russian boxing federation since 2017, according to a biography on the AIBA website. He previously held a prominent role in the Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club with nationalist political views and links to the Kremlin, and has managed professional Russian boxers Dmitry and Fyodor Chudinov.

Company registration data lists Kremlev as the former owner of a security company using the Night Wolves brand and a jewelry firm.

AIBA said Wednesday it has “significant debts of over $16 million” and needs Olympic revenue from the IOC to survive.

The IOC declined to give details of the interim report given to board members Thursday.

A final report should be delivered on May 22 by a three-person panel, chaired by IOC board member Nenad Lalovic, the Serbian president of wrestling’s governing body.

The boxing body questioned why a decision was not made Thursday, noting it had given the IOC several reports in the past year. They included steps to improve management, finances and improving fight judges.

“This further delay has a direct impact on our athletes,” AIBA executive director Tom Virgets of the United States said in a statement, adding “it is a complete disaster for boxers around the world who are being left in limbo without any support or access [to] funding.”

The IOC board could decide in May to drop boxing from the Tokyo lineup or plan for men’s and women’s tournaments and qualifying events without AIBA’s involvement. The full IOC membership could vote to derecognize AIBA at its June 24-26 meeting in Lausanne.

The IOC barred AIBA from contacting Tokyo Olympic officials when it opened the inquiry in November. That came weeks after AIBA member federations defied IOC warnings by electing Rakhimov at a meeting in Moscow.

Rakhimov, who has held senior positions with AIBA and the Olympic Council of Asia over the past 20 years, has consistently denied allegations linking him to organized crime in Uzbekistan. The claims helped prevent him from attending the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2012 London Olympics.

He is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list that bars U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with him. It has created problems for AIBA to use banks in Switzerland.

Last week, Rakhimov moved to ease IOC concerns by stepping aside from the presidency, although he did not resign. AIBA statutes allow him to return within months.

In Kremlev’s letter, he asked Lalovic and IOC president Thomas Bach “to support boxing and save AIBA in the Olympic movement.”

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team

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