AIBA candidate Rakhimov hints at stepping aside

MOSCOW (AP) The leading candidate to run the amateur boxing association hinted Friday he will take a leave of absence if elected to calm tensions with the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC has said Gafur Rakhimov"s bid to become president of AIBA could put the association"s place in the Olympics at risk. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for alleged ties to organized crime and international heroin trafficking. He has denied wrongdoing.

""We are addressing any issues that the IOC would have as a result of the election for leadership positions, including for president, through new amendments to our statutes,"" said Rakhimov, who is AIBA"s interim president. ""This amendment ... will put in place a system that will allow an elected president, whoever that may be, to step aside for a limited period of time, should it be necessary.""

That proposal, which goes to a vote later Friday, would allow the president to keep full voting rights on AIBA"s executive committee even while officially absent.

Rakhimov, who is from Uzbekistan, is running against Serik Konakbayev of Kazakhstan for the AIBA presidency. The election is set for Saturday.

Rakhimov presented himself as AIBA"s savior, saying he had restructured $40 million of debt and lifted a threat of bankruptcy since becoming interim president in January. Rakhimov said two major debts to investors had been converted to sponsorship deals, but didn"t say how.

""I was able to get most of the credit against AIBA waived,"" Rakhimov said, adding that ""to think that we almost had to dissolve our organization and file for bankruptcy is unthinkable.""

AIBA"s financial problems mostly date from the 11-year reign of former president C.K. Wu, who stepped down last year. AIBA banned him for life last month for ""gross negligence and financial mismanagement.""

Besides Rakhimov"s alleged ties to criminal groups and AIBA"s finances, the IOC has complained about the association"s refereeing and judging after several controversial bouts at the 2016 Olympics.

The IOC has said it could keep boxing on the 2020 Olympic program but remove a role for AIBA, though it"s not clear how that might work. AIBA"s financial woes could deepen if it loses its cut of Olympic TV money. The IOC has suspended payments to AIBA and did not let Rakhimov attend last month"s Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

Konakbayev is positioning himself as the IOC-friendly candidate.

""If (Rakhimov) wins, the IOC will take a tough decision which won"t make us happy,"" Konakbayev told The Associated Press on Thursday. ""We could lose participation as an Olympic sport in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. That"s the scariest thing and we should all think about that.""

Konakbayev only made the ballot after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that his nominations were in fact valid despite an earlier attempt by AIBA to exclude him.


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