Long-time Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah was banished by the IOC for three years on Thursday for influencing an election in Asia this month while self-suspended as a member after his conviction for forgery in 2021.
The International Olympic Committee’s decision should effectively remove the one-time “kingmaker” of sports elections from influencing its next presidential vote in 2025.
A six-page recommendation by the IOC Ethics Commission suggests “Olympic Parties, including the IOC Members, to refrain from interacting with Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, in particular to avoid any risk of any perception of influence on any decisions regarding the Olympic Movement.”
The document stated Sheikh Ahmad’s behavior in recent weeks had an “undeniable impact” on the result of a July 8 presidential election won by his brother to lead the Olympic Council of Asia.
The Kuwait-based OCA was created by Sheikh Ahmad’s father, then was led by him for 30 years until the guilty verdict at a Geneva criminal court in September 2021, and was now to be led by his brother, Sheikh Talal.
Sheikh Talal won in a close election in Bangkok where Sheikh Ahmad had also traveled as a Kuwaiti government minister, suggesting his famed influence in Olympic circles was still strong.
Sheikh Ahmad was often called the “kingmaker” of Olympic elections after a series of wins for campaigns he supported about a decade ago, including as a close ally of Thomas Bach when he was first elected IOC president in 2013.
Bach and the IOC have distanced themselves from the sheikh since an indictment by Geneva prosecutors was revealed in November 2018. The forgery case was unrelated to sports and involved factional rivalry in the Kuwaiti royal family and government.
Sheikh Ahmad returned to authority in Kuwait several weeks ago when he was appointed a deputy prime minister and minister of defense.
He had appealed against his conviction in Geneva and sentence of almost 14 months’ jail time with a further 15 months suspended. An appeal verdict is pending.
Around 100 IOC members who include current and former heads of state, royalty and sports officials from across the world are scheduled to elect a successor to Bach in Athens in two years’ time. The German lawyer will have reached the end of his maximum 12 years in office.
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