12th June 2018

AIBA defends decision to award 2019 World Championships to Sochi

The international boxing association (AIBA) has defended its decision to award the 2019 Men’s World Championships to Sochi, after the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Compliance Review Committee (CRC) recommended that as a result of the decision, AIBA be declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. At the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board meeting in Montreal on 16/17 May, the CRC recommended that AIBA ‘be non-compliant with the Code for awarding the 2019 Men’s World Championships to Russia in 2017, in violation of Article 20.3.11 of the Code, after RUSADA [Russian Anti-Doping Agency] had been declared non-compliant’. The CRC is to further discuss the issue at its next meeting on 14 June.

‘The AIBA 2019 Men’s World Championships was awarded to Russia in July 2017 when no other viable bid applications were put forth and under a different edition of the WADA Code’, read an AIBA statement. ‘Since then compliance conditions have been updated with new rules’.

The original Article 20.3.11 of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code required Code signatories ‘To do everything possible to award World Championships only to countries where the government has ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the UNESCO Convention and the National Olympic Committee, National Paralympic Committee and National Anti-Doping Organization are in compliance with the Code’. 

The changes to Article 20.3.11 that AIBA refer to came into effect in April 2018, and require Code signatories ‘To accept bids for World Championships and other International Events only from countries where the government has ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the UNESCO Convention and the National Olympic Committee and National Anti-Doping Organization are in compliance with the Code’.

It is therefore understood that if WADA’s CRC is to be successful in charging AIBA with a breach of Article 20.3.11, it must be able to prove that AIBA failed to ‘do everything possible’ to award the AIBA 2019 Men’s World Championships to a country other than Russia, whose anti-doping agency has not been in compliance with the Code since it was suspended by WADA in 2015. Meeting that burden of proof may be difficult if, as AIBA claims, Russia was the only ‘viable’ bidder.

However, the Ukrainian boxing federation (FBU) is understood to have expressed interest in hosting the 2019 Men’s World Championships. Shortly before its 24 July 2017 decision, taken in Moscow, AIBA told AroundTheRings that it had received “several high-level bids” to host the tournament. As such, AIBA may be required to demonstrate to the CRC why Russia was deemed the only ‘viable’ bidder.

In yesterday’s statement, AIBA pointed out that the international federation of football associations (FIFA) is hosting the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It argued that it was planning to implement the same ‘independent anti-doping tests outside of the host country’ as FIFA. FIFA has confirmed that no Russians will be involved in sample collection at the World Cup, and all laboratory analysis will take place outside of Russia. 

However, FIFA awarded Russia the hosting rights to the tournament in December 2010, before RUSADA was suspended. AIBA awarded Sochi the hosting rights for the Men’s 2019 World Championships in July 2017, two years after RUSADA was suspended.

In January, AIBA named Gafur Rakhimov, who has been Vice President of AIBA since 1998, as its new Interim President, following the ‘unexpected’ resignation of Interim President Franco Falcinelli at an AIBA Extraordinary Congress in Dubai. The Congress was convened to address allegations of mismanagement by former AIBA President Ching-Kuo Wu, and Falcinelli had been appointed as his temporary replacement.

In 2012, the US Department of the Treasury alleged that Rakhimov, an Uzbek Russian, was a member of the ‘Brothers’ Circle’ organised crime group. ‘As a key member of the Brothers’ Circle, Gafur Rakhimov acts for or on behalf of the Brothers’ Circle’, read a statement. ‘Rakhimov is one of the leaders of Uzbek organized crime with a specialty in the organized production of drugs in the countries of Central Asia. He has operated major international drug syndicates involving the trafficking of heroin.’

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