GENEVA — The Olympic family of sports is in a period of turmoil one year after a troubled Rio de Janeiro Games.
A slew of critical headlines for sport’s world governing bodies in the past week has tarnished soccer’s FIFA, swimming’s FINA and boxing’s AIBA organizations.
A common theme is allegations of financial mismanagement to retain power and influence in the sports governance world that typically involves first-class travel, five-star hotels and access to political leaders.
Personal enrichment is alleged against a rising star of the International Olympic Committee, former sprinter Frankie Fredericks. Track and field body IAAF suspended Fredericks last week from its ruling committee during a probe of the $300,000 payment to his company on the day in 2009 that Rio was chosen to host the 2016 Olympics. Fredericks denies any wrongdoing.
The state of AIBA’s institutional finances led its executive committee to pass a vote of no confidence in President Ching-Kuo Wu. An IOC executive board member, Wu denied reports AIBA risks bankruptcy because investors want their money back.
Another IOC board member, Patrick Hickey, has been “self-suspended” for 11 months since being arrested in Rio for alleged links to scalping Olympic tickets.
The IOC, which passed a 2014 resolution urging sports organizations to commit to improved governance, declined comment Wednesday on recent issues facing Summer Games sports:
FIFA’s senior vice president Angel Maria Villar is in a Spanish jail facing a range of corruption allegations.
Villar, who has led Spain’s football federation for 29 years, was among four arrested this month, including his son. Gorka Villar, who was a FIFA reform adviser in 2015, allegedly benefited from deals linked to friendly matches involving Spain’s national team.
Spain’s top sports authority suspended Villar for a year on Tuesday. FIFA’s ethics committee has not announced any measures.
Villar is the second FIFA Council member linked to alleged criminal wrongdoing this year. Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, an IOC member from Kuwait, was implicated in a Brooklyn federal court document in April for allegedly funding bribes to Asian football officials through accounts of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which he leads.
The sheikh denied wrongdoing though resigned from FIFA within days.
The first vice president of swimming’s world body is Husain al-Musallam, also from Kuwait and a longtime aide to Sheikh Ahmad.
Al-Musallam was re-elected unopposed Saturday by FINA members despite being identified as “co-conspirator 3” in the Brooklyn case. The sheikh is “co-conspirator 2.”
FINA cleared al-Musallam as a candidate because “there was no case to answer” according to its rules.
In a federal court in Brooklyn, a FIFA audit panel member from the United States territory of Guam admitted taking six-figure bribes to help Kuwaiti interests in football politics.
Al-Musallam and Sheikh Ahmad are still a member and chairman, respectively, of the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity Commission. It has a $500 million budget to help sports bodies and athletes ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The boxing body often seems in turmoil. This week, AIBA President Wu faced a rebellion by senior colleagues who he said appeared to be “bent on creating a false narrative in the media.”
The New York Times and British daily The Guardian claimed AIBA cannot afford to repay money from Azerbaijani and Chinese investors in pro boxing subsidiaries.
Wu promised to give AIBA members a fuller financial picture and hold a special congress within months.
The IOC withheld Rio Olympic revenues from AIBA last year, and said Wednesday it is “seeking more information, to be able to determine whether further action is required.”
Though Fredericks has been in the spotlight since March, track’s Monaco-based body suspended him only last week.
The ruling explained Fredericks wants to keep his IAAF Council seat, though he agreed to stay away from the world championships in August. The four-time Olympic medalist retains his IOC membership though has no active role during investigations.
Fredericks was an IOC board member at the time of the Rio vote. His company accepted $300,000 payment allegedly sourced from a Brazilian businessman.
Fredericks said he was paid for a consultancy contract with the son of Lamine Diack, who in 2009 was IAAF President and an IOC member. The Diack family is being investigated by French state prosecutors.
Fredericks and Hickey were among the few IOC members to miss meetings this month in Lausanne, Switzerland, in the 2024-2028 Olympic bid contests.
Hickey has been in Ireland trying to clear his name since December when he was allowed to leave Brazil to receive medical treatment. The Sheikh Ahmad-led Association of National Olympic Committees loaned Hickey $430,000 to pay his bail money.
If their absences were expected, Sheikh Ahmad’s decision to skip Los Angeles and Paris officials presenting their projects was more surprising.
The Kuwaiti royal is seen as a key ally in IOC votes, in part because of leading Lausanne-based ANOC. It is unclear if he has traveled to Switzerland, where federal prosecutors have a longstanding investigation of FIFA, since the Brooklyn court hearing.