Liam Morgan ©ITG

Elections in any industry are often bitter affairs, where the officials involved put politics ahead of the needs of the people they are supposed to service.

Campaigns for the Presidency of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) are living proof the Olympic Movement is no different.

Culminating in elections due to be held at either end of November, these have been littered with the usual traits which regularly accompany contests for any top position at an International Federation.

We’ve had the accusations, allegations and denials. We’ve had claims of breaches of ethics, disciplinary codes and even supposed violations of Swiss law.

All of this before the candidates have even been confirmed.

At the centre of the disputes in the two organisations are two Italians, AIBA executive vice-president Franco Falcinelli and ISSF vice-president Luciano Rossi, both of whom have been the victim of attempted ostracisation from officials within their own governing bodies.

Rossi and Falcinelli - neither of whom have covered themselves in glory at times, it must be said - have also been subjected to attacks based on what seems, on the surface at least, to be largely spurious charges.

AIBA executive vice-president Franco Falcinelli could be suspended folloiwng a row which has broken out in the world governing body's Executive Committee over the election of a new President ©ITG
AIBA executive vice-president Franco Falcinelli could be suspended folloiwng a row which has broken out in the world governing body's Executive Committee over the election of a new President ©ITG

This was blatantly exposed yesterday when a letter sent by AIBA Executive Committee member Terry Smith, which accused Falcinelli of all sorts of supposed misdemeanours and called for the Italian to be suspended, made its way into the public domain.

In the document, obtained by insidethegames, the Welshman launches a stunning tirade on one of the most senior officials within AIBA, claiming Falcinelli was guilty of breaking confidentiality laws, as well as the organisation’s ethics and disciplinary codes.

The row stems from letters connected to the campaign for the AIBA Presidency.

In the first, International Olympic Committee chief ethics and compliance officer Päquerette Girard Zappelli warns current interim President Gafur Rakhimov – described as "one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals" by the United States Treasury Department – that his candidacy puts boxing’s treasured place on the Olympic programme in severe jeopardy.

Smith is adamant Falcinelli was not authorised to view the letter, despite the Italian highlighting how Rakhimov himself appointed him to assist with AIBA-IOC relations, and that he then went and disseminated the document to the media.

Falcinelli has strongly denied this, insisting he was not the source of the leak. He has hit back at the AIBA leadership for not letting all Executive Committee members see the letter from Zappeli, which puts in black and white that Rakhimov standing for the top job is far from the IOC’s desired outcome.

In response to the warning from Zappeli, Falcinelli wrote a letter of his own, urging AIBA’s ruling body to get behind Serik Konakbayev, the Kazakhstan who has confirmed his intention to stand against Rakhimov.

This, according to Smith, amounts to a breach of AIBA's bylaws as Falcinelli has "failed to conduct his election campaign with honesty, dignity, moderation and respect".

To others, it appeared an important intervention from a man clearly desperate to avoid boxing being axed from the Olympic programme in what would be a blow AIBA might never recover from.

Gafur Rakhimov and Franco Falcinelli were once considered allies but their relationship has now soured ©AIBA
Gafur Rakhimov and Franco Falcinelli were once considered allies but their relationship has now soured ©AIBA

Amazingly, and quite brazenly, Smith says the letter from Falcinelli contains "blatant truths and inaccuracies" when he refers to the clear warning from Zappeli concerning boxing’s Olympic status. This despite the fact that the words of the IOC chief ethics and compliance officer are there for all to see.

Smith also claims a proposal from Falcinelli to hold a meeting of the European Boxing Confederation (EUBC), of which the Italian is President, to discuss the mess AIBA finds itself in now constitutes "significant campaigning" on the part of the executive vice-president who is standing for re-election at the crucial November Congress in Moscow.

The offer of free air travel and accommodation for delegates is the main bone of contention from Smith, who says it is a ploy from Falcinelli to ensure he divulges his campaign for re-election to more members of the continental body.

Yet all of these allegations come from an official who was part of the group which launched a coup to oust former AIBA President Ching-Kuo Wu and was later removed from the Executive Committee before being quietly reinstated.

Falcinelli hit back in true impassioned style. He said Smith has been "hired to play a sniper role to remove any opposition at the upcoming elections for his associates" - a clear claim that the EUBC head believes Smith is carrying out the orders of Rakhimov.

"Speechless situation, devastated feeling, I am totally in heartbroken sadness of reading our colleague's well fabricated accusation letter," Falcinelli wrote in response to the charge sheet delivered by Smith.

The allegations might not exactly seem heinous, but Falcinelli is now at risk of suspension from all of his roles within the sport as the AIBA Executive Committee have convened to decide his fate.

Falcinelli has already threatened legal action at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) should the verdict not go his way but he might want to consult his compatriot Rossi, banned by the ISSF for three years earlier in 2018.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne cut ISSF vice-president Luciano Rossi's suspension from three years to 20 weeks following a successful appeal ©Getty Images
The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne cut ISSF vice-president Luciano Rossi's suspension from three years to 20 weeks following a successful appeal ©Getty Images

There are certainly similarities in the two cases. When Rossi was hit with a three-year suspension, many outsiders and onlookers could not believe the severity of the sanction given the offences he was found to have committed.

His ban came at the end of a protracted and public feud with his organisation, which saw the ISSF publish a press release openly rejecting the "false allegations" made by Rossi in response to his suggestions that secretary general Franz Schreiber and vice-president Gary Anderson discussed the use of laser guns at the Olympics with the IOC "as the possible future of the shooting sports".

Rossi had found himself at loggerheads with long-standing ISSF President Olegario Vázquez Raña, set to stand down after 38 years at the helm at an election scheduled for November 30 on Munich, following the decision to remove the double trap men's event from the Olympic programme at Tokyo 2020 in favour of a mixed competition.

The Mexican claimed Rossi orchestrated a plan to hold an Extraordinary General Assembly, held in Munich in June of last year to discuss the alterations to the sport's programme at Tokyo 2020, so he could lobby the membership as part of his campaign to succeed him as the once solid relationship between President and vice-president soured beyond repair.

While the CAS did rule he had committed "serious breaches" of the ISSF’s recently-hardened ethics code, mainly connected to business issues, including the non-disclosure of conflict of interest in relation to private business in shooting, spreading of misinformation and disloyalty towards the ISSF, Rossi’s suspension was cut from three years to just 20 weeks.

In a further sign of the damaged relations between the ISSF and Rossi, the organisation chose to focus on the offences committed by Rossi, rather than the fact his suspension had been dramatically reduced, when they published a statement in response to the CAS verdict.

The ISSF’s attempt at excluding Rossi from the Presidential race have failed, however, as his updated ban following the CAS suspension expires 16 days before the nomination process concludes.

It is not yet clear whether Rossi will indeed stand but is seems likely given the amount of effort he has poured in to clearing his name and ridding himself of the tag given to him by Vázquez Raña and other loyal members of the ISSF hierarchy.

If he does, he will face a tough obstacle in steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin, who earlier this year became the richest man in Russia and who Vázquez Raña has already declared is his preferred successor.

Russian steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin is the favourite to become ISSF President later this year ©Getty Images
Russian steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin is the favourite to become ISSF President later this year ©Getty Images

There has not been any public comment from the IOC on the troubles in the ISSF but it would be naïve to think they are not closely monitoring the situation to ensure it does not escalate prior to the election in the German city.

What the disputes in AIBA and the ISSF highlight more generally is how International Federations continue to exhibit flawed governance at a time where "good governance" has become a buzzword and a favoured rhetoric and the IOC.

In boxing’s case, governance was one of a number of problems with AIBA outlined by the IOC long before Rakhimov began to cement his intention to secure the Presidency on a permanent basis. This latest row will only make it worse.

What the likes of Smith and Rakhimov are guilty of is putting their own power-hungry ambitions ahead of those they are supposed to protect.

After all, should boxing lose its Olympic place, it is the athletes who will suffer most.