Rio report claims Michael Conlan's 2016 Olympic fight was fixed

Irish management were told his chances were gone, claims explosive Rio 2016 report

Michael Conlan reacts to his 56kg bantam loss to Russian Vladamir Nikitin. The interview with RTE post-match shows his frustration and claims of corruption. Video: RTE

 

An official Rio Olympics report from Irish boxing team manager Joe Hennigan claims that Irish management were informed during the boxing competition that fights at the games had been fixed.

It further claims that the medal hopes of one of our brightest prospects, Michael Conlan, were “gone” before he stepped into the ring.

The alarming claims were made in a three-page report, verified as authentic and seen by The Irish Times.

Hennigan, who was subsequently voted in as vice-president of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association in 2017, was given the information regarding fixing a day before Conlan was due to fight Russian opponent Vladmir Nikitin on August 16th. At the time Conlon was the World Amateur Bantamweight champion.

Hennigan says in his report that when he and others went to the athletes' village – following the shock defeat of lightweight defending champion Katie Taylor on Monday 15th – Zauri Antia, head coach of the Irish team, informed him of what he had been told about Conlan’s bout being a lost cause.

Antia is a native Georgian, who can speak Russian. He was, says Hennigan, told by one of the Russian coaches that Conlan’s medal and others had already been decided. The Russian coach in question has not been named in the report.

Irish boxers

Having been told the bout was already fixed, Hennigan describes his efforts to locate the then Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president Pat Hickey in order to inform him and try to protect the interests of the Irish boxers.

“We went back to the village that evening and Zauri informed me that the Russian coach had told him that Michael Conlan’s medal was gone as were others and we would want to protect our boxers,” writes Hennigan in the report. “Following this we tried on numerous occasions to see Pat Hickey to get him to intervene he was never available . . . I finally got to speak to him at an event the following day and explained the problem to him.”

Hennigan adds in his report: “It was sickening to think we definitely lost two contests [Conlan and Taylor] because of corruption and you would argue Joe Ward’s one as well with bad refereeing.”

The decision in Conlan’s fight was seen as one of the most contentious in Olympic boxing history and led to Conlan labelling the International Boxing Association (AIBA) as cheats in the immediate aftermath of the fight.

“Amateur boxing stinks from the core right to the top,” he said afterwards.

Hennigan added that because of the rules at the Olympics, the Irish team was not permitted to make a protest about the outcome of the bout.

“As per AIBA rules we could not complain about the judges’ decisions,” he said. “Michael was annoyed and upset . . . shortly after this we were told AIBA were going to sanction him for his behaviour, which is really a joke as the AIBA put in the corrupt judges in the first place.”

During the competition the AIBA suspended a number of referees and judges due to “decisions that were not at the expected level.”

Possible expulsion

The following November all 36 judges who officiated in Rio were suspended while the AIBA conducted an investigation.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said last month that they have not yet accepted the AIBA’s claim that no bouts at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio were affected by match-fixing.

“We are extremely worried about the governance in AIBA,” he said. The IOC executive board was “not satisfied” with a report prepared by AIBA on its governance, finance, refereeing and anti-doping issues.

The AIBA must deliver a report by April 30th to the IOC under threat of possible expulsion from future Olympic Games.

The OCI said they were unaware of any allegations of match-fixing and had not seen the boxing team manager’s report.

“The OCI is not aware of this report and yes would welcome a copy,” said a spokesperson. “The allegations of bout-fixing you refer to from the report are shocking.”

Former OCI president Pat Hickey could not be reached for comment.

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