Boxing bouts for medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges, an independent investigation commissioned by the sport’s world governing International Boxing Association (AIBA) revealed.
Richard McLaren, head of the investigation, said in a report released on Thursday that the first of three stages of the investigation looked into the refereeing and judging at Rio where controversial decisions in certain bouts made the headlines.
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“The seeds of this were sown years before, starting from at least the Olympic Games of the 21st century through the events around 2011 and London 2012,” McLaren told a news conference in Lausanne.
There is no final figure on how many fights could have been affected.
The investigation identified “in the vicinity of 11, perhaps less, and that’s counting the ones that we know were manipulated, problem bouts or suspicious bouts”, including fights for medals, McLaren said.
The report added that senior AIBA officials used their power to select referees and judges and turned the commission, which was supposed to ensure they were assigned fairly, into “a mere rubber stamp”.
The referees and judges who were selected generally “knew what was going on” or else were “incompetent” and willing to ignore signs of manipulation, and qualifying events for the Rio Olympics were used to filter out honest referees and judges, McLaren alleged.
Referees and judges were told who should win a bout in the morning before a day of fights at the Olympics, including in a lounge area “protected from prying eyes”, McLaren said.
During the 2016 Olympics, there was a spotlight on judging after a contentious fight between Ireland’s Michael Conlan and Russian Vladimir Nikitin.
After the judges awarded the fight to Nikitin, Conlan showed them his middle fingers and accused Russia and AIBA of corruption.
‘Nothing to hide’
AIBA was suspended as the Olympic governing body for boxing in May 2019.
The qualification and staging of the tournament at the Tokyo Games in the summer were organised by a task force of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which recently criticised AIBA for its failure to oversee reforms of its leadership.
AIBA has been led by Russian businessman Umar Kremlev since December and says it has reformed how bouts are judged since 2016, when ex-president Wu was in charge.
“AIBA hired Professor McLaren because we have nothing to hide,” Kremlev said in a statement. “There should be no place in the AIBA family for anyone who has fixed a fight.”
AIBA said it “noted” McLaren’s findings.
“We must now carefully examine the report and see what steps are needed to ensure justice,” Kremlev said.
None of the referees or judges from 2016 was in their posts for this year’s Olympics in Tokyo after being suspended by AIBA.