Crisis levels surrounding the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) have intensified today after 46 countries called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to intervene in what they describe as an "unacceptable coup" by the organisation's Board.
It followed the appointment of Australia's Rebecca Adam as President for the next three years by the Board earlier this week in a decision made without consultation with the wider membership.
A group of 46 countries from four regional Confederations have appealed to the IOC administration and Ethics Commission to intervene in "supporting the ICSD's own constitution" at a "critical juncture" for the community.
Controversy escalated in May this year when ICSD President Valery Rukhledev was arrested and placed under house arrest for two months in his home country of Russia.
The 70-year-old, a six-time Deaflympics champion for the Soviet Union between 1969 and 1977 in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling who had led the world governing body since 2013, was charged under the Russian Criminal Code and accused of embezzling over RUB50 million (£604,000/$803,800/€690,000) from the All-Russian Society of the Deaf in Moscow.
An ICSD statement following a Board meeting in Yerevan on Monday (July 30), chaired by acting President Kang Chen, said that Rukhledev took the "serious decision to retire with immediate effect" after "five years of faithful duty".
"The ICSD Executive Board wishes to thank Dr. Rukhledev for taking this step and hopes that all matters against him will be resolved in his favour," the statement added.
"Following the statement of Dr. Rukhledev, there was an unanimous decision by the ICSD Executive Board members to appoint Mrs. Rebecca Adam as the new ICSD President from the August 1, 2018 until the next ICSD Congress scheduled for 2021."
The Board added that it was their duty to "provide a clear path to follow and to regain the confidence of the international community".
It has prompted a fierce reaction from the wider membership, though, with calls intensifying for an Extraordinary Congress to be held as soon as possible.
Other problems currently being faced including a failure to confirm hosts for next year's Winter Deaflympics - currently expected to take place in northern Italy in December 2019 - and the 2021 summer edition.
"We remain hopeful of resolving issues like financial and anti-doping irregularities, the absence of hosts for the Deaflympics and the continued lack of support for deaf athletes in many countries, but for this to happen the ICSD has to show partners that it can be trusted to follow the rules," Frouke van Winsum, The Netherlands Deaf Sport Federation President who is a leading figure in the protest, said.
"For the ICSD Board to continue to overlook the demands of its members, the needs of its athletes, the trust of its partners and the clear message of the IOC is simply unacceptable.
"Far more countries than are required by the ICSD constitution have already called for an Extraordinary Congress.
"I have no doubt we will prevail because those are the rules of our organisation.
"It is deeply unfortunate that it seems the ICSD's Executive Board deny its commitments to these rules in an attempt to hold on to power, and for us to have to ask the IOC to intervene."
Under ICSD rules, a minimum of 38 countries from two regional Confederations is required for an Extraordinary Congress to be held.
The full list of 46 countries includes Australia, where the new President hails from, as well as New Zealand in Oceania.
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom are European signatories.
They are joined by Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Mali and Nigeria in Africa as well as Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and United States in the Americas and Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Nepal and Yemen in Asia.
There are 113 listed ICSD members.
None of the top nations on the 2017 Summer Deaflympics medals table - Russia, Ukraine, South Korea, Turkey, China, Japan, Iran and Venezuela - have so far joined the critics.
Other figures quoted in the press release today opposing the ICSD Board include Portugal Deaf Sport Federation President Susana Lourenco and Australia's Dean Barton-Smith, the President of the ICSD Athletes' Commission.
Lourenco highlighted the failure to find hosts for events and criticised the absence of certainty on the future of the Deaflympics.
Barton-Smith attacked the "disgraceful Executive Board that is focused...on clinging to power" and called for the organisation to "start afresh, with the right people, with the right governance skills and the right experience to reboot and restore deaf sport globally".
The IOC Executive Board announced last month they were withholding all payments to the ICSD because of the continuing allegations of embezzlement against Rukhledev.
Representatives from the two organisations are due to meet on September 12.
It followed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two bodies in 2016.
insidethegames has contacted the IOC today for an updated reaction.