TOKYO (Reuters) – Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah asked delegates at the Association of National Olympic Committee (ANOC) general assembly on Wednesday to allow him to step down as president temporarily while he contests a legal case in Switzerland.
The Kuwaiti sports powerbroker has denied any wrongdoing and, without giving any further details, said allegations against him in the court case were politically motivated.
Sheikh Ahmad stood down from his roles in the International Olympic Committee last week because of the case and on Monday said he would be stepping aside from his post as president of ANOC, an umbrella body for national Olympic Committees.
He remains the president of the Olympic Council of Asia and clearly has no intention of permanently giving up his ANOC role, a post he was originally scheduled to be re-elected to at the assembly.
“I will decide to step aside for a while and to come back to you stronger, not only in my beliefs but with trust,” Sheikh Ahmad told delegates in Tokyo.
“I am asking for your permission and support. We are one family and we need to keep the solidarity of the movement. We need to keep this movement solid and united.
“(The court case) is nothing about sport, nothing about corruption. This is why I ask your permission and for your support.”
Sheikh Ahmad was the only candidate in the presidential election, which is still on the agenda for later on Wednesday, and it was unclear what would happen after his decision to stand aside.
ANOC vice-president Robin Mitchell of Fiji is seen as the likely candidate to take over on a temporary basis and Sheikh Ahmad still clearly expected some sort of ballot to take place at some stage.
“Some of you, they tell me, want to know if I am eligible to run? I assure you I am eligible,” he added during a rambling speech at the end of his official presentation.
“I am confident and I am innocent. I have trust in the courts of justice in Switzerland.
“I know I am eligible and I know I am innocent. I am sure of that.
“Some of you are saying, ‘but it is an election and you are the only name?’ Yes, it is an election and I am the only name but it is not a big deal (if the election) is now or later.”
Sheikh Ahmad is a close ally of IOC President Thomas Bach and was among his supporters in the run-up to his election in 2013.
Bach sat next to him through the first session and joined in the warm round of applause that greeted the end of Sheikh Ahmad’s speech.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Nick Mulvenney