One of the most influential figures in international sport on Wednesday officially stepped down from a powerful Olympic body as he fights forgery charges in Switzerland.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah had already announced he was “temporarily” stepping aside from his IOC duties and asked not to be re-elected president of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC).
“I am confident I am innocent. I trust the court of justice in Switzerland … I know I am innocent. I am sure about that and I will follow through on my trust in the court in Switzerland,” he told delegates.
“I will decide to step aside — of my own will — for a while and to come back to you stronger,” added the Kuwaiti powerbroker.
But there was last-minute drama at the gathering in Tokyo as several representatives pushed for the Sheikh — the only candidate for ANOC president — to be re-elected anyway.
In chaotic scenes, delegate after delegate spoke to defend Sheikh Ahmad, arguing that he had become embroiled in a political affair that had nothing to do with sport and that was being played out in the courts.
“The ship of ANOC has been sailing rather smoothly and now is not the time to change the captain,” said the representative from Guyana.
After an unscheduled last-minute intervention from the Sheikh, delegates finally agreed to postpone the election for president while he sorts out his legal issues.
Officials admitted this was a “unique” situation and there was nothing in the organisation’s constitution to deal with such a case.
A long-time IOC member seen as a close ally of President Thomas Bach, Sheikh Ahmad is accused of orchestrating a complex forgery scheme linked to his efforts to prove his native country’s former prime minister is guilty of corruption and plotting a coup.
The aim of the alleged forgery, according to a Swiss charge sheet, was to legitimise suspicious video recordings Sheikh Ahmad had presented in Kuwait as evidence of corrupt practices by ex-premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah and former parliament chief Jassem al-Khorafi.
The case against Sheikh Ahmad, a nephew of Kuwait’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, is set to go before a court in Geneva next year.