AIBA investigation rejects BBC corruption claims

(Reuters) – An investigation committee appointed by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) has dismissed allegations that Azerbaijan was promised two boxing gold medals at next year’s London Olympics in exchange for a $10-million loan to the sport’s ruling body.

In a statement released  yesterday, the Special Investigation Committee (SIC) said the report aired on September 23 on the BBC’s Newsnight program was “groundless and unsupported by any credible evidence.”

After sifting through hundreds of pages of documents, emails and financial statements, the five members of the SIC, all senior figures connected to the AIBA, found no wrongdoing.

SIC chairman Tom Virgets, Senior Associate Athletic Director at the U.S. Naval Academy and chair of the AIBA’s Disciplinary Commission, said: “We have conducted an exhaustive investigation over the past two months, and we have concluded that the allegations made by BBC Newsnight in September that there was an investment by a government or any discussion or effort to guarantee gold medals were completely without merit.”

The BBC report said it had uncovered evidence of “secret payments” from a mystery source in Azerbaijan to World Series Boxing (WSB), a new competition run under the auspices of the AIBA.

It said the WSB’s Chief Operating officer, Ivan Khodabakhsh, had promised Azerbaijan two gold medals in London in return for the payment.
The AIBA dismissed the allegations at the time as “preposterous and utterly untrue” while Khodabakhsh strenuously denied the accusations made against him.
The BBC yesterday said it stood by its investigation and would continue to cooperate with an International Olympic Committee (IOC) investigation into the allegations.

According to the SIC investigation, an individual named as Hamid Hamidov had made an investment for “commercial purposes, namely to assist in the establishment and operation of U.S. boxing franchises.” “This was a purely commercial investment, unconnected to the Olympic Games, and we have traced both the source of funds and their disbursement, and documented our findings,” Virgets said. The report found no evidence that the source of the loan was the Government of Azerbaijan and said Hamidov had sworn a written statement detailing his involvement as a private investor looking to profit from the sale of television rights of WSB.

Despite requests by the AIBA to the BBC to provide evidence to back up its claims, the investigation said none had been forthcoming “apart from transcripts of what had been broadcast.” The investigation said two of the BBC’s anonymous sources had refused to cooperate with the SIC while one of its primary sources was a former AIBA vice-president serving a five-year suspension from all boxing activity.

In a statement the BBC said: “Newsnight is aware of AIBA’s position and we stand by our investigation.”
“While we anticipate AIBA making all the evidence they reviewed public, we are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing independent investigation by the International Olympic Committee Ethics Commission.”

Concerns over the scoring system used by the AIBA were raised at the Beijing Games in 2008 and a new electronic system will come into force in London.
According to the SIC report the AIBA has proper measures against manipulation and it said not even the organization’s president could “deliver” medals as it would involve corrupting 16 separate security systems and more than 60 referees and technical officials. It said referees and judges in London would be selected at random and told 10 minutes before each Olympic bout.

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