LONDON (AP) — Denying corruption claims in the "strongest possible terms," amateur boxing's governing body set up a special committee Friday to investigate allegations of attempts to fix results at the 2012 London Olympics.
The International Amateur Boxing Association said a five-man panel will look into claims made in a BBC television program that $9 million has been paid by Azerbaijan to ensure the former Soviet republic wins two gold medals at the games.
Bribes were allegedly paid to the World Series of Boxing, a subsidiary of AIBA.
"AIBA and WSB deny in the strongest possible terms that they accepted an investment from Azerbaijan in exchange for two gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics — or indeed for any improper purpose," the boxing bodies said in a statement.
"At this stage AIBA is not aware of any credible evidence" to support allegations that WSB chief operating officer Ivan Khodabakhsh promised gold medals to Azerbaijan in return for the payment, it said.
"Ivan Khodabakhsh is a man of integrity and AIBA trusts him and respects his work," the statement said, adding that he has promised to cooperate "fully and freely" with the probe.
AIBA President C.K. Wu of Taiwan, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, appointed a "special investigation committee" to look into the claims.
The panel will be led by Tom Virgets, chairman of AIBA's disciplinary commission. AIBA said the group would convene immediately in Baku, Azerbaijan, where the amateur world championships are currently taking place.
IOC President Jacques Rogge welcomed AIBA's probe and asked the BBC to turn over its evidence for possible action.
"We take every allegation very seriously," Rogge said a news conference after a sports seminar in Beijing.
Speaking by telephone from AIBA's home city of Lausanne, Switzerland, Khodabakhsh told The Associated Press on Friday that the allegations were "completely ridiculous" and "absolute lies."
"I have never been asked to nor have I ever undertaken anything illegal or unethical in the course of my duties working for WSB," Khodabakhsh said in the AIBA statement. "I am ready to personally take any possible measures to clear my name and prove that the accusations are false and without any ground."
Citing unnamed "whistleblowers" and "insiders," BBC's Newsnight program on Thursday alleged that the $9 million was paid by an Azerbaijan national to WSB, an international franchise competition supported by AIBA. The program said the money was needed by the WSB because it had run into financial difficulties in the United States.
In its statement Friday, AIBA said it accepted a loan from a "private Azerbaijani investor" for the operation of WSB's American franchises.
"The loan was not 'secret' and nor was there anything improper about it," the statement said. "It was an arms length transaction between two entities made on a commercial basis and with a view to a commercial return for the investor."
"Any suggestion that the loan was made in return for promises of gold medals at the 2012 Olympics is, we repeat, preposterous and utterly untrue," AIBA said.
Gerhard Heiberg, the IOC official who oversaw reforms of AIBA, said the allegations came as a "shock."
"This seems unreal because the process has been good," he told the AP by telephone from Beijing. "The people have been changed. The people running AIBA today are good people in my opinion.
"It would be very, very sad if the allegations are true," Heiberg said. "I hope they are not."
Heiberg said he doesn't see how it would be possible to fix the medal results but the allegations should be investigated anyway and AIBA should face "consequences" if bribes were paid.
"I feel we have found systems now to prevent things like that," he said. "I cannot see how it could be possible to fix and give two gold medals. I cannot see how it can function in practice. Fifteen years ago yes, but not today."
Heiberg was appointed chairman of AIBA's reform commission after the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The IOC withheld $1.1 million in Olympic television revenues from AIBA after Athens. The money was paid in full in 2007 after the IOC was satisfied that AIBA had cleaned up its act and improved the sport's scoring and judging systems.
The reforms moved forward after Wu ousted longtime chief Anwar Chowdhry of Pakistan as AIBA president in 2006. Wu was re-elected to a second four-year term last year.
In 2007, AIBA secretary general Caner Doganeli of Turkey was expelled for financial misconduct and Chowdhry was barred for life from any involvement with the federation.
"We have to follow up," Heiberg said. "C.K. Wu and his people will have to explain what is happening. We cannot leave this alone."
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva and Associated Press writer Chi-Chi Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.