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Indian boxing federation banned over elections

By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) has been suspended by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) for "possible manipulation" of its elections, in the wake of a wider Olympic ban that has left sports in the Asian country reeling.

The IABF amended its constitution ahead of its September election to create the chairman's post to accommodate Abhay Singh Chautala at the end of his 12-year reign as the federation president.

That paved the way for his unopposed election as president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Wednesday, a day after the IOC banned the body for allowing government interference in its poll.

Even though the AIBA suspension is a direct fallout of the Olympic ban, the Indian boxing federation's September election is now under investigation.

"This provisional suspension is also due to the fact that AIBA had learned about possible manipulation of the recent IABF's election," the governing body of amateur boxing said in a statement.

"AIBA will now investigate this election and especially a potential political link between IOA President, as former Chairman of the IABF, and the IABF election."

Compounding the pressure, India's sports ministry also announced on Friday that it had suspended the IABF, effectively cutting off the sport's government funding.

Indian boxing federation chief Abhishek Matoria claimed the AIBA suspension had come from out of the blue, but conceded the global governing body had enquired about their elections.

"It's a big, big shock for all of us," Matoria told Reuters on Friday.

"They suspended us without giving us a chance to explain. They did write a letter to us alleging 'malpractice' in election but never specified.

"We sent them a detailed explanation, point by point and I have no idea why they still suspended us.

"I can assure you we would do everything to make sure our boxers don't suffer. We'd approach AIBA and even IOC is required to revoke the suspension."

The AIBA ban is a massive blow to Indian boxing, whose fighters were making regular podium finishes in international events.

"I am really disappointed with this suspension. This is bad news for Indian sportspersons," Vijender Singh, who won India's first Olympic boxing medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, told NDTV channel.

"I want to continue representing India in future but this news will affect the morale of the Indian boxers.

"The next AIBA event is quite far away but hopefully we would not sit on it for too long and get the suspension revoked as soon as possible."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Patrick Johnston/Ian Ransom)

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