Last week, Salim Abduvaliyev, the president of Uzbekistan's Wrestling Association, welcomed the best wrestlers on the globe to his home country as the 2014 United World Wrestling (formerly FILA) World Championships took place in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.
In a letter attached to the front of the event's program, Abduvaliyev graciously thanked competitors for coming to Uzbekistan, and wished them luck.
It would appear, however, that Abduvaliyev only moonlights as Uzbekistan's head wrestling official. Myriad sources allege that Abduvaliyev is the head of the Uzbek mafia, and has been for quite a while.
Reports suggest a connection between Abduvaliyev and a number of crimes, including the sale of many Uzbekistan government positions. A U.S. intelligence report describes the Uzbek as a "Mafia Chieftain", and discusses a party he held which boasted a guest list with a who's who of organized crime in Russia and Central Asia.
Abduvaliyev has long been an avid sponsor of the sport of Wrestling. At the London Olympics, he was appeared matside celebrating with Artur Taymazov, after the Uzbek heavyweight won his third straight gold medal in freestyle wrestling. The international wrestling database even lists Abduvaliyev as Taymazov's personal coach.
Before the start of last week's World Championships, FILA held a ceremony in Tashkent where they inducted Taymazov into their hall of fame. During his induction, a photo shows Abduvaliyev standing arm-and-arm to the right of Taymazov (gold turban) who, in turn is standing arm-and-arm with the President of FILA/UWW, Nenad Lalovic. On the other side of Lalovic stands FILA/UWW Vice President Stan Dziedzic.
Nothing suggests that Abduvaliyev's involvement with wrestling is anything other than benign. Additionally, this should not call into question the integrity of Lalovic, who has thus far performed admirably in his role as the head of Olympic wrestling. However, FILA, as evidenced by its recent name change to UWW, desperately seeks to improve its image in the mind of the public and the International Olympic Committee. Seeing as how Abduvaliyev has a reputation as a notorious criminal, FILA/UWW would probably be better off not maintaining such visible ties to him if they want others to view Olympic wrestling more favorably.