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The most controversial Olympic Boxing Tournament ever?
by Michael O'Neill
September 9, 2016

(SEPT 9)  There has been widespread anger and disillusionment with the AIBA’s judges and Executive following several highly contentious decisions at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. 

Most of the criticism followed alleged pro-Russian bias by the Judges, some against opponents from countries like United States, Kazakhstan, Ireland and Canada.

In an unprecedented move, Boxing Canada, the country’s National Federation issued this statement imploring other National Federations of the Governing Body to join their campaign to persuade their Masters to once and for all to clean up the judging system so that boxers will never again encounter some of the truly awful decisions encountered in Brazil.

Boxing Canada’s statement:

“Following questionable decisions and alleged corruption claims occurring at the Rio 2016 Boxing competition, a global strategy is being put in place to ensure AIBA will address and correct the situation.

Boxing Canada strongly believes that the integrity of our sport and athletes must be protected while faced with injustice and we will not tolerate any unfair judgement. Although small measures have been taken by AIBA, combined efforts with our partners will continue until the integrity of boxing is restored and has reached a satisfactory level”

Their Irish counterpart, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association noted that:

“The IABA fully understands the frustration expressed by our athletes and coaches regarding the outcome of some of the bouts at the Games particularly given the split decisions that went against three of our athletes, the casting decision which saw Katie Taylor lose and the controversy around Michael Conlan’s defeat.

“We do not have an option to appeal decisions at the Olympic Games. IABA do however believe that in light of events in Rio, it is in the best interests of amateur Olympic boxing that the scoring and judging process is reviewed”.

Coaches and boxers too had their say:

Associate Team USA coach Kay Koroma believes that many of the judges are themselves confused and still coming to terms with the ‘changes’ in scoring system as Reuters reported during the competition:

"I tell people you can't use the word 'corruption' all the time," he said. "You can just say it was a bad decision. The judges are also stressed out and frustrated because they are actually in the Games too.

"So it's difficult to score. Some people are looking at something and others at something else. It just matters out of those five judges which ones they pick. Sometimes they pick the wrong one."

A reminder that the new system involves five judges ringside who all score the fight, with a computer deciding at random which three of the five will count. Clearly this is unsatisfactory albeit the AIBA have gradually softened their view following their first review which indicated that they had carried out their own detailed review and found "less than a handful" were not at the level expected.

"The concerned referees and judges will no longer officiate at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games," it said, adding that the results of all bouts would stand. It did not name any individuals. Nonetheless WBAN understands that despite comments to some reporters that judges had been ‘sent home’ most of those concerned did remain in Rio and some officiated on finals days.

A few days later, various media reports suggested that AIBA’s Chief Executive Officer, Karim Bouzidi had been “reassigned” to other duties.

There then followed a more detailed statement :

“Following recent judging decisions and after carrying out a thorough examination by the relevant Commission, AIBA has decided to take immediate and appropriate actions.

Since the beginning of the Olympic Games, AIBA has conducted 239 bouts. The AIBA R&J Commission has reviewed all decisions and determined that less than a handful of the decisions were not at the level expected and consequently it has been decided in accordance with the AIBA R&J evaluation committee that the concerned referees and judges will no longer officiate at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In accordance with AIBA Rules the result of all the bouts will stand.

AIBA represents 200 National Federations and has continuously sought to evolve the sport of boxing and continuously strive to ensure a level playing field. AIBA will not shy away from its responsibilities and is fully committed to a zero tolerance policy towards fair play in boxing, always acting in the boxers’ utmost interest. The Olympic Games represent the pinnacle of all sports and Boxing has been part of this since 1904. It is essential AIBA stands to the values of respect, sportsmanship, excellence and remains committed to a fair and transparent sport.

With regard to corruption, we would like to strongly restate that unless tangible proof is put forward, not rumours, we will continue to use any means, including legal or disciplinary actions to protect our sport and its R&J community whose integrity is constantly put into question. The organization will not be deterred by subjective judgements made by discontented parties. We welcome all parties to come forward and provide evidence in order to take appropriate and immediate action”

The AIBA’s media statement implying that the Association was ‘fully committed to a zero tolerance policy towards fair play’ left boxers, coaches and fans confused – what did they mean, asked several via Social Media? What indeed.

The (London) Guardian had prior to the start of the Games suggested that their sources had revealed that bouts in Rio would be ‘rigged’ and quoted an unnamed AIBA insider and also a former AIBA R&J, Seamus Kelly. After some debatable decisions ,the ‘Guardian’ returned to the issue saying:

“The senior official who went public with fears of deep-rooted corruption in Olympic boxing has claimed a string of controversial decisions show it is “alive and well” and called for urgent action by Aiba, the amateur sport’s governing body, amid furious scenes around the ring in Rio.

“As predicted, the corruption is alive and well and the decisions speak for themselves. It is clear that Aiba will not do anything about this. It is time now for the IOC to step in,” said the source, insisting that amateur boxing is so rotten that only the removal of Aiba’s president, CK Wu, all of his administration and all of the officials at the Olympics would cut it out.

“President Wu needs to resign, as well as the executive director and the senior staff. Every RJ [referee and judge] and ITO [international technical official] needs to be suspended. That’s the only way it’s going to change.”

The latest intervention came after Ireland’s Michael Conlan accused Aiba, of corruption “from the core right to the top” after losing in the bantamweight quarter-finals to the Russian Vladimir Nikitin. “They’re f…… cheats,” he shouted into the ringside microphone. “They’re known for being cheats. Amateur boxing stinks from the core right to the top.”

Conlan added: “I’ll never box in this competition again. If people watch this Olympic Games and they see some of the decisions … I think boxing is dead. It’s about whoever pays the most money. Whoever has the biggest [influence] wins.”

A two day AIBA Emergency meeting followed in Lausanne, unusually opening on a Sunday but no official statements have been issued since.

Numerous websites have however suggested that stern action was in the process of being taken against a number of officials (inc Referees and Judges), a small number of boxers notably World no.1 Michael Conlan plus others and possibly even National Federations presumably for failing to control their boxers. Some other AIBA officials could also ‘fall by the wayside’

Since Conlan had long before the Games made known his intention of joining the Pro ranks after Rio (irrespective of whether he medalled or not), it is difficult to know what action the AIBA intends to take – it was suggested a “life ban” would be his punishment but since he is already a Pro very hard to understand how they could enforce that since AIBA relationships with such as WBC are not exactly ‘cordial’.

If significant fines were imposed on National Federations (also suggested) then that would affect young boxers of tomorrow as such Federations have already very limited resources financially and to do this would hardly encourage up and coming young boxers to fight under AIBA rules – indeed the opposite would be true and make them more likely to join either Pro organisations OR a new body for the old ‘ Amateur’ sport. Our understanding is that discussions are afoot to see what support there may be in North America, Europe and Oceania, for an entirely new body NOT affiliated to the AIBA.

National Federations are awaiting news from the AIBA as to what action is to be taken and who against and why and already legal challenges are being discussed.

We will update you on any late news from AIBA HQ but for now, for the benefit of readers, we include links to some of the media activity following Rio 2016 – let’s not forget though that there were some excellent bouts and performances that did not involve ‘corruption allegations’ but alas when historians come to look back at this year’s boxing tournament it will be best remembered for all of the wrong reasons.

Links: The Guardian 1 August Link

Fightword.com Link

Los Angeles Times Link

The Guardian 16 August Link

Sports Illustrated/Teddy Atlas: Link

New York Times: 19 August Link

AIBA .org Link

Boston Globe: Link

Interview – Michael Conlan talks to RTE Sport : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv_cAuuErd4

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