herald

Sunday 25 September 2016

AIBA drops some judges and referees following controversial decisions against Conlan and Levit

Ireland's Michael Conlan.
Ireland's Michael Conlan.

Olympic boxing's governing body AIBA has announced that it has expelled a "handful" of referees and judges involved in controversial decisions during the Rio Games.

The boxing tournament has been blighted by a number of contentious decisions in recent days, chiefly defeats for Irish bantamweight Michael Conlan and Kazakh heavyweight Vassiliy Levit.

However, AIBA said there was no possibility of overturning the results of any of the bouts concerned.

AIBA's statement read: "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.

"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 organisation 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."

Conlan launched a furious, expletive-laden tirade live on RTÉ immediately after he dropped a points verdict to Russia's Vladimir Nikitin.

The reigning world champion called AIBA officials "f****** cheats" and "cheating b******s" during his post-fight interview, and even tweeted Russian president Vladimir Putin to ask: "Hey Vlad @PutinRF_Eng How much did they charge you bro??".

Conlan's decision came one day after a controversial verdict in the men's heavyweight final went the way of another Russian, Evgeny Tischenko.

Despite the Kazakh having appeared to dominate the bout, the three judges found in favour of Tischenko, and the decision was met with boos and jeers from the predominantly Brazilian crowd.

In a particular embarrassment for AIBA, the bout was watched at ringside by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

Ireland's Michael Gallagher was one of the ringside judges for the heavyweight final bout. It is unclear whether he is one of the officials who have been sanctioned.

The five ringside judges for Conlan's bout - from which three scores are randomly chosen - hailed from Brazil, Canada, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Poland respectively.

The controversy comes at a particularly difficult time for AIBA, which is pressing ahead with its plans to allow fully professional boxers to participate in the Games.

Embarrassingly, despite pushing through a rule change earlier this year which was designed to tempt star names to compete in Rio, only three established professionals turned up - and all three crashed out early.

The rule change effectively means boxing has gone from a position of strength in the Olympic programme to the sport which, more than any other, is bereft of the most available big names.

The move away from computer scoring to the professional, "10 point must" system has also been criticised for being too rigid and less transparent.

However, few observers deny that, irrespective of the results, the move to professional-style scoring has made bouts in general more competitive and exciting.

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