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Russia’s Kremlev defies Olympic concern to win boxing vote

December 12, 2020 GMT
General Secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation, member of the Executive Committee of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Umar Kremlev listens to a journalist's question during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.  Kremlev announced on Tuesday that he would be running for the presidency of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in its upcoming elections. Kremlev made the announcement to journalists in Moscow and said he made the decision to run because of his "pain" in what he saw as the association's deterioration. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
General Secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation, member of the Executive Committee of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Umar Kremlev listens to a journalist's question during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Kremlev announced on Tuesday that he would be running for the presidency of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in its upcoming elections. Kremlev made the announcement to journalists in Moscow and said he made the decision to run because of his "pain" in what he saw as the association's deterioration. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
General Secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation, member of the Executive Committee of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Umar Kremlev listens to a journalist's question during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Kremlev announced on Tuesday that he would be running for the presidency of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in its upcoming elections. Kremlev made the announcement to journalists in Moscow and said he made the decision to run because of his "pain" in what he saw as the association's deterioration. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

GENEVA (AP) — Umar Kremlev of Russia was elected president of the troubled International Boxing Association on Saturday despite concerns of Olympic officials about his candidacy.

The governing body, known as AIBA, said Kremlev won more than 57% of the vote in a five-candidate contest involving 155 national federations.

The International Olympic Committee last year stripped the AIBA of its responsibility to organize boxing at the Summer Games amid concerns over the integrity of Olympic bouts, governance and finance.

It is far from clear that Kremlev’s victory will help solve AIBA’s main challenge — regaining that recognition before the Paris Olympics in 2024. Boxing will take place at the Tokyo Olympics which open next July, but the IOC has cut AIBA out of organizing the men’s and women’s tournaments and qualifying events next year.

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“The question of recognition of AIBA will only be reviewed after the (Tokyo) Olympic Games,” the IOC said Saturday in a statement noting Kremlev’s victory.

IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed this week that AIBA had been made “well aware” of the Olympic body’s concerns about some candidates, who he did not identify but was understood to include Kremlev.

“I am the most clean candidate,” Kremlev said in translated comments at a virtual news conference broadcast from Moscow. “There is no concern about my candidacy and my history.”

The IOC had been skeptical about Kremlev’s offer last year to clear AIBA’s $16 million debts if the sport’s Olympic status was retained. Kremlev has been head of the Russian Boxing Federation since 2017.

“Getting rid of AIBA’s debt will be the first priority,” Kremlev told voters on Saturday, in a statement released by the governing body based in Lausanne, Switzerland. “My administration will aim to raise $50 million within two years, all of which will be used to rebuild AIBA.”

Kremlev said at the news conference he would begin announcing agreements with sponsors next week, and predicted it would take three or four months to enact reforms that could persuade the IOC to reinstate AIBA.

Kremlev will complete the presidential term of Gafur Rakhimov, who American authorities allege is involved with international heroin trafficking. Rakhimov has denied wrongdoing.

Rakhimov resigned months after being elected two years ago by AIBA members who defied IOC warnings not to pick him.

Kremlev’s win was sealed when the contest was down to three candidates. He got 86 votes against 45 for Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands and 19 for AIBA’s interim president, Mohamed Moustahsane of Morocco.

Russians are now presidents of three governing bodies of Summer Games sports. Billionaires Alisher Usmanov and Vladimir Lisin lead fencing and shooting, respectively.

Usmanov is known to have a good relationship with Bach, a German lawyer who won a gold medal in fencing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Usmanov spent $8.8 million at auction last year on a document written in the late-19th century by IOC founder Pierre de Coubertin, and donated it to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

Asked Saturday if he could enlist Usmanov’s help to rebuild AIBA’s relationship with the IOC and Bach, Kremlev acknowledged: “We are friends. But I am not going to benefit from my personal connections.”

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