Investigators fear eleven boxing matches at the Rio Olympics were rigged by officials, including British boxer Joe Joyce’s controversial loss to Frenchman Tony Yoka in a gold medal fight.
An investigation by the sport’s top investigator, Professor Richard McLaren, found evidence of widespread corruption and manipulation in Olympic boxing that dates back to the turn of the century.
His report raises the possibility that the London 2012 fighting was also manipulated.
McLaren said he found six-figure sums changed hands to decide the decision in some fights, while others were set for the benefit of national associations or Olympic committees.
The team was called when an internal International Boxing Association (AIBA) investigation revealed “strong suspicions” of manipulation around a number of bouts in Rio.
The main findings of the report include:
- referees and judges were appointed because they “would conform to the manipulation or [they] were incompetent but wanted to continue ‘in their role
- officials had “personal goals, which were often the intangible rewards of recognition, inclusion and respect in their home country”
- fights could be manipulated for money or to thank national Olympic committees for support, on some occasions six-figure sums have changed hands
- the investigation team recognizes that progress is being made to “correct the arbitration process” at AIBA, but there are still weaknesses
Joe Joyce won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics after suffering a controversial loss in the final
British fighter Joe Joyce was denied gold at Rio 2016, after appearing to overtake Frenchman Tony Yoka in the super-heavyweight final.
However, at the end of the fight, Yoka’s arm was raised instead, to widespread amazement in the boxing world.
This fight is one that investigators have identified as suspect, although they recognize there may be more that require careful consideration as more information becomes available.
Another involved Irishman Michael Conlan, whose bantamweight quarter-final against Vladimir Nikitin sparked public outcry at the time.
The report stated that although it was a “close game,” only one of the five judges scored in Conlan’s favor.
“Four judges would be required to vote in favor of a particular boxer in order to ensure that he / she was the winner,” the report said. “This was the case in Conlan’s fight, and may indicate that the outcome had been predetermined. ”
The investigator – whose revelations about Russia’s state-sponsored doping program saw the country banned from the competition – said more work was needed to determine for sure which fights were rigged.
“A close study of the fighting in Rio indicates around nine suspicious fights beyond the two mentioned in the media at the time,” McLaren said in its report.
“It may be necessary to further examine the fights for which no definitive conclusions can be drawn at this time. The problem with completing this scan is due to the late receipt of five game score sheets. Therefore, there may also be other suspicious fights.
Tony Yoka (left) took the win, but the result should be overturned after a corrective investigation
Yoka celebrated the end of the fight when the referee declared him the winner of the fight
For years there have been rumors and allegations regarding corruption in Olympic boxing and McLaren’s mandate was to review the qualifying fights for the Rio Olympics and the Blue Ribbon event itself.
In its report, McLaren says: “The fights were manipulated for money, a perceived advantage of AIBA, or to thank the National Federations and their Olympic Committees, and, on occasion, the hosts of competitions for their financial and political support.
“The investigation to date has concluded that such manipulation sometimes involved large six-figure sums. The evidence MIIT has found is seen as the tip of the iceberg.
Former AIBA president Wu Ching-kuo and the organization’s former executive director Karim Bouzidi were “key players” in enabling the manipulation of the fighting, according to the survey.
Investigators discovered that the seeds of corruption and manipulation date back to the 2000s
The report says the referees and judges were appointed because they “would comply with the manipulation or were incompetent but wanted to continue” in their role and “turn a blind eye”.
He says referees and judges were motivated by “personal goals, which were often the intangible rewards of recognition, inclusion and respect in their home countries.”
And it is alleged that other officials at events were chosen because they too “would turn a blind eye to attribution of incompetent or accomplice R&J [refrees and judges]’.
Wu Ching-kuo was AIBA President before he resigned in 2017
“The connivance, endorsement, complicit recognition and support of these activities by the executive director and the president were essential to the success of the corruption,” the report said.
“Permanent paid staff worked in a command and obedience environment where power was focused on the executive director and exercised on behalf of the president. ‘
And he adds: “President CK Wu bears the ultimate responsibility for the failures of the refereeing in Rio and the qualifying events,” the report said. “It was supported by its executive director in Rio who were key players in organizing the playing field to allow manipulation to flourish. “
Wu Ching-kuo’s 11-year reign as president came to an end when he resigned in November 2017 amid allegations of financial mismanagement. Following Rio2016, Karim Bouzidi was “reassigned” from his post of Executive Director of AIBA. He is no longer listed as an administrator on the organization’s website.
Richard McLaren, nominated by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), delivered a press conference in Lausanne presenting his findings on alleged irregularities in boxing
The investigative team said the manipulation system used in Rio was perfected in qualifying events, but the manipulation dates back many years, including to the London Games in 2012.
“A system of manipulation of the fights by the officials existed in Rio. The seeds for this were sown years before they started at least from the Olympic Games of the 21st century until the events around 2011 (which will be discussed in the next step) and London 2012. ‘
Looking ahead, the report recognizes that improvements have been made to arbitration. However, he says more needs to be done.
“Progress is being made, but the personnel issue requires immediate and immediate attention,” he says. “People are the problem. ”
The report presented by Professor McLaren today is only the first step in the investigation. Steps two and three will seek to “identify possible acts of corruption, mismanagement of funds, manipulation of election results or others by AIBA in past and current administrations”.
Current AIBA President Umar Kremlev said of the report: “I am determined to ensure that boxers receive a fair fight. This determination is demonstrated by AIBA’s clear commitment to uncover the truth and act upon it.
“We must now carefully examine the report and see what measures are needed to ensure justice. What is important is that we make sure that the mechanisms are in place to show that the results are above suspicion. ‘
AIBA has been suspended and barred from hosting the boxing competition in Tokyo 2020 after a review by an International Olympic Committee (IOC) working group of the sport’s governance, management, refereeing and judging . The IOC directly oversaw the competition in Japan instead.
The AIBA has been warned that boxing’s place at the 2024 Games in Paris is in jeopardy unless the shortcomings identified in the review are corrected.