Duncan Mackay ©ITG

Spread out on a large conference table in a room of the headquarters of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in the Maison du Sport International located on the banks of Lake Geneva in Lausanne earlier this week were 4,000 pieces of paper, all neatly filed in piles marked under numbers from 1 to 41. 

Together they filled five large ring binders and were AIBA's answers to the points of concern raised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on topics ranging the sport's governance, financial management, integrity of its competitions and its anti-doping programme.

They were formally delivered to the IOC's offices a few kilometres down the road at the other end of the Lake on Thursday (February 21) and showed, what AIBA's executive director Tom Virgets claimed, is the "incredible progress" they have made under its new leadership. 

Several of the key points were pinned to the wall of the room in AIBA's headquarters for Virgets to take a small group of international journalists through. All the statistics, graphs and pie charts were meant to demonstrate how AIBA was putting its house in order and why the IOC should lift its suspension which has put its organisation of next year's boxing tournament at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in doubt. 

"AIBA has been an easy target and that is a position we have earned," Virgets told us. "We were an absolute mess...quite frankly, the IOC should have thrown us out around 2014-15. But we have made incredible progress over the last months as an organisation and I'm not sure that has been recognised."

AIBA executive director Tom Virgets looks at some of the 4,000 pieces of documentation provided for the IOC ©ITG
AIBA executive director Tom Virgets looks at some of the 4,000 pieces of documentation provided for the IOC ©ITG

Virgets, the former senior association athletic director of physical education at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis in Maryland, employed a theatrical flourish when he wanted to amplify a point, like when he was talking about AIBA's finances. 

AIBA's debt had been reduced from $18 million (£14 million/€16 million) last year to $15.6 million (£11.9 million/€13.7 million) this year, he claimed, and would be wiped out within four years if boxing was included in next year's Olympics.

AIBA's four-yearly non-Olympic income of $20 million (£15 million/€18 million) could "easily" be increased to around $30 million (£23 million/€26.5 million), Virgets added, although he never explained how. 

Virgets claimed that spending was also under control - another concern after AIBA spent all of its $20 million revenue from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in less than two years, he alleged. "All of the money that was supposed to last from 2016 to 2020, we had spent by mid 2017," he said, adding that this year's budget had been cut to $5.7 million (£4.4 million/€5.1 million).

But he saved his most theatrical flourish for when talking about AIBA's new controversial President, Gafur Rakhimov. By now, the facts are well known. The 67-year-old Uzbek likes to portray himself as a successful businessman and sports administrator who, besides as at AIBA, has also held high-ranking positions at the National Olympic Committee of Uzbekistan and Olympic Council of Asia.

AIBA President Gafur Rakhimov has denied he is linked to drug trafficking and organised crime but remains on the US Treasury list ©AIBA
AIBA President Gafur Rakhimov has denied he is linked to drug trafficking and organised crime but remains on the US Treasury list ©AIBA

Rakhimov's critics, though, claim he has ties with organised crime. In 2012, the United States Department of the Treasury put financial sanctions on him and several other individuals accused of being part of the so-called Brothers Circle, a name given to an international criminal group involved in drugs trafficking.

The decision to add the group was taken after it had been named by Barack Obama's Government in the "Strategy on Combating Transnational Organized Crime", who defined them as "a multi-ethnic criminal group composed of leaders and senior members of several criminal organisations largely based in countries of Europe". As long ago as 2000, there were suspicions over Rakhimov and he was refused a visa to attend the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. 

Rakhimov has denied the allegations and is taking steps to have his name removed from the Treasury list having never been charged with any crime in any country and having won defamation suits in Britain, Australia and France. "Who has evidence that Gafur Rakhimov is a hardened criminal?" asked Virgets. "You would have thought that in 18 years [since Sydney] someone would have found evidence to indict him."

In Rakhimov's favour is that he has been removed from the "most wanted list" by Interpol and received letters of support from the new Government in Uzbekistan, claiming these allegations were "unfounded" and "untruthful" and as a result of a dispute between him and the former regime in his home country. These documents were put on the wall of AIBA's offices with a real flourish and a little bit of an extra bang for full effect.

Graphs and statistics have been produced by AIBA to try to demonstrate to the IOC that it is well on the way to becoming an International Federation that is fit-for-purpose  ©ITG
Graphs and statistics have been produced by AIBA to try to demonstrate to the IOC that it is well on the way to becoming an International Federation that is fit-for-purpose ©ITG

I asked Virgets whether he believed there was a lack of consistency in the IOC's policy to those accused of crimes as they have allowed Tsunekazu Takeda to remain as a member, head of its influential Marketing Commission and President of the Japanese Olympic Committee, even though he is currently under investigation in France relating to alleged payments worth $2 million (£1.5 million/€1.75 million) made to Singapore-based company Black Tidings to illegally help Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

"That's an excellent question," he replied, with a smile breaking out on his thin lips. "If it's about our President then let's make it about the President." 

But everyone knows it is about Rakhimov. AIBA know that. The IOC know that. Anyone with a passing interest in the future of boxing in the Olympics knows it is about Rakhimov. 

Having a man on the US Treasury list linked to major drug trafficking and organised crime is a red line that the IOC simply cannot afford to cross. 

As a result of having elected Rakhimov as President, AIBA are unable to maintain a bank account in Switzerland, surely unprecedented for an International Federation, and there are large parts of the world he is currently banned from travelling to, including Japan. 

In the end, as I told Virgets at the start of his presentation, unless one of these 4,000 pieces of paper shows that Gafur Rakhimov is no longer on the US Treasury list, then it is all a complete waste of time.