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Further suspicion arises around boxing decisions during Rio Olympics

French official Karim Bouzidi is at the centre of fresh allegations involving AIBA.

Ireland's Michael Conlan takes aim at judges following his controversial Olympic defeat.
Ireland's Michael Conlan takes aim at judges following his controversial Olympic defeat.

AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION by amateur boxing’s world body AIBA has raised serious questions about the judging at the 2016 Rio Olympics, with particular suspicion falling on a French official, French newspaper Le Monde reported on Monday.

France basked in the glow of six boxing medals in Rio, including golds for super heavyweight Tony Yoka and his now wife Estelle Mossely — Katie Taylor’s successor at lightweight.

But three days before the end of the Olympic tournament, boxing federation AIBA removed its then executive director Karim Bouzidi from his role because he was accused of favouring fighters from certain countries, according to Le Monde’s report.

Le Monde, which carried out the investigation with Bulgarian newspaper Bulgaria Today, said it had seen the internal AIBA report and emails that showed the body was concerned Bouzidi had influenced the decisions of so-called five-star judges in Olympic bouts.

An email from AIBA’s then-president Wu Ching-Ko dated 18 November 2016 said the body suspected Bouzidi of acting with another senior official to influence the judges, in particular those featuring boxers from France and Uzbekistan.

Bouzidi did not reply to AFP’s request for a comment on Monday.

Andre Martin, the head of the French boxing federation, told Le Monde:

The results in Rio were not ‘stolen’, they are honest. It’s true that we knew Bouzidi but we never blackmailed him.

Katie Taylor in action against Estelle Mossely France's Estelle Mossely (R) won gold in the women's 60kg division, succeeding 2012 champion Katie Taylor (L). Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

AIBA’s internal investigation found that Bouzidi had the power to appoint the referees and officials for competitions, but added there was no direct proof that these changes influenced the results of fights.

Bouzidi’s arrival in the senior AIBA ranks coincided with a campaign by France to try to improve its Olympic boxing results after disappointing performances at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games.

One part of the strategy involved setting up a franchise to take part in World Series Boxing, an international competition aimed at swelling AIBA’s coffers.

Kevinn Rabaud, the former coach of the French team in the WSB series, said they had done nothing wrong.

“We always played by the rules… We organised events in France so that the athletes could become better known. If the fight was close, it might play in the boxer’s favour if they were better known.

“In Rio, we got results thanks to our reputation and our previous results.”

Boxing is already facing the threat of expulsion from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Its inclusion depends on the outcome of an investigation into AIBA by the International Olympic Committee, which has presented the body with a list of 41 questions via audit firm Deloitte, who will then report back to the Olympic body.

Controversial Ukzbek businessman Gafur Rakhimov, who the US Treasury Department has linked to “transnational criminal organisations”, stepped down as AIBA president on Friday.

Bouzidi is allegedly forbidden by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from being involved in AIBA, yet Le Monde and Bulgaria Today claim he has worked as an advisor to Rakhimov.

Imago 20181115 Gafur Rakhimov stepped down as AIBA president on Friday with a view to protecting boxing's status as an Olympic sport. Source: Imago/PA Images

Relations between the IOC and AIBA were hit hard at the 2016 Rio Olympics when 36 officials and referees were suspended amid allegations of bout-fixing. Ireland’s Michael Conlan fell foul of a ludicrous decision at the quarter-final stage which saw him exit to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin despite dominating their contest.

In a famous post-fight interview with RTÉ, an emotional Conlan stated:

The AIBA are cheats. They’re fucking cheats. It’s simple as that. That’s me. I’ll never box for anyone again. They’re cheating bastards, they’re paying everybody. I don’t give a fuck about cursing on TV. My dream’s Olympic gold, that’s dreams been shattered now. But you know what? I’ve a big career ahead of me. Amateur boxing stinks from the core to the very top.

Rakhimov insists the allegations against him are “politically motivated lies”.

His emergence as amateur boxing’s head in 2018 was only made possible by a series of scandals and accidents of circumstance.

Wu Ching-ko resigned in 2017 amid claims of multi-million dollar accounting fraud.

Italian Franco Falcinelli then resigned the position just months after taking over, allowing Rakhimov — the next most senior vice president — to step up to become first interim and then permanent president.

The status of boxing is on the agenda for IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne this week, from 26-28 March.

- © AFP 2019

- with reporting from Gavan Casey

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