AIBA removes all of its top judges after Olympics review

The governing body has said that no fights were fixed at the Rio Games in the summer

Michael Conlan after his loss to Russia’s Vladimir Nitkin at the Rio Olympics. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Michael Conlan after his loss to Russia’s Vladimir Nitkin at the Rio Olympics. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

The world governing body for amateur boxing has permanently removed all of its so-called “five-star” judges from international competition and admitted that “a concentration of decision-making power” and “an unwelcome axis of influence” affected its judging during a hugely controversial Rio Olympics.

After the news that there were concerns among senior officials over corrupt judging at Rio and a string of high-profile incidents followed at the Games, the Amateur International Boxing Association launched a four-month review in September.

Aiba and its president CK Wu, himself under pressure after a series of allegations relating to financial issues and a $10m loan from Azerbaijan, sidelined all 36 of the referees and judges who officiated at the Rio Olympics and dismantled its controversial “five-star” officiating system that was implicated in corruption allegations.

After conducting more than 50 interviews it announced on Friday that it had found no “active interference” in the results in Rio but said there had been a “detrimental impact on in-competition best practice”.

“An unwelcome axis of influence and sole decision-making had been created and used by former senior management that led to a lack of due process being carried out,” said Wu.

“We moved immediately to re-empower our commissions and use their expertise in order to decentralise the decision-making and re-establish our procedures.”

The executive director, Karim Bouzidi, who had operational control of a boxing competition in Rio scarred by repeated allegations of corrupt judging, was “reassigned” in the middle of the Games and has since left his role.

The group of five-star judges, defended by Aiba when the Guardian newspaper originally identified grave concerns over corruption at the Rio Games, has now been disbanded.

An Aiba spokesman confirmed that none of its seven five-star judges, a new tier created in 2012 to form the core of its judging operation for major championships and the Olympics, would officiate at an international level again. It said others of the 36 officials stood down after the Rio Games would be reintegrated “on a case by case basis” but did not specify how many.

Despite insisting before the Olympics there were no issues with the probity of the draw in any major championships or at the Games, Aiba also confirmed it had now decided to disband the draw commission and assign officials using an automated Swiss Timing system.

It will also use all five judges’ scorecards to determine the winner of a bout, rather than eliminating two, and would prevent any Aiba executive from having a role within the ring.

“The report shows that the actions Aiba has taken since the Rio 2016 Olympic boxing tournament, and the organisation’s current positive steps, are justified,” it said. “Following the removal of these mechanisms that threatened the integrity of the organisation, the Special Investigation Committee also found unprofessional relationships within Aiba had created an atmosphere of collusion between senior management and the Five-Star R&Js that undermined the organisation and had a negative impact on its operating efficiency.”

When concerns were first revealed, Aiba said it would “continue to use any means, including legal action, to protect our sport and its community” and insisted that its certification process “ensures all our R&Js [referees and judges] have the highest levels of officiating and are in optimal situation to perform accordingly”.

Aiba will now argue that it has acted promptly to deal with the issues raised. Amid broader concerns about the governance of the sport, Wu insisted in December that he retained the support of his executive committee in the face of “malicious, unfounded attacks”.

In the wake of the Guardian’s warning before the Rio Games, the boxing competition erupted into controversy when the Irish boxer Michael Conlan publicly railed against corruption after losing in the bantamweight quarter-finals to the Russian Vladimir Nikitin. Conlan shouted into a ringside microphone: “They’re known for being cheats. Amateur boxing stinks from the core right to the top … I think boxing is dead. It’s about whoever pays the most money.”

There was widespread outrage after another Russian, the heavyweight Evgeny Tishchenko, beat Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit to claim gold. Tishchenko was booed by the crowd after the decision.

And the American camp was furious after Gary Antuanne Russell lost to Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov.

Aiba said that while its investigation had not shown that any medals should be reassigned it would look again at the appeals procedure for future Games.

(Guardian service)

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