THE BIG PICTURE: McLaren Report confirms corruption in boxing judging in Rio 2016; more inquiries to be made into AIBA’s past

“AIBA has had a long history of match manipulation and corruption.”

That’s a bad way to start a 152-page finding into match fixing at the 2016 Rio Games, but the McLaren Global Sport Solutions report, Independent Investigation of the AIBA Boxing Competitions Prior to and During the Rio Olympic Games 2016, pulls no punches (pun intended):

“The same allegation has been raised consistently – outcomes of bouts have been manipulated because of the specific [referees and judges] assigned to them. In response to the shackles of the legacy of corruption and manipulation, over the years AIBA has continually made changes to the rules governing appointments of R&Js, R&J evaluation system, and boutscoring. However, these reforms have done little to eliminate allegations of R&J manipulation. …

“First and foremost, the problem is the personnel carrying out the duties of AIBA. The formal rules were not applied, and senior level personnel usurped powers to themselves. They used this institutionalised structure to manipulate poorly trained R&Js who wanted little more than the intangible benefits of being recognized in their own right as such and the accompanying tangible benefits of travel, status, and prestige they did not have with their regular day jobs. The fact that they were not well trained and frequently come from modest backgrounds enabled them to be preyed upon by those who had corrupt motives.”

The major findings described an organized crime regime, straight out of the 1920s:

● “A system for the manipulation of bouts by officials existed at Rio.”

● “The qualifying competitions along the route to participation in Rio in 2016 were the
practise ground for the corruption and manipulation of bouts at Rio.”

● “The manipulation methodology relied upon corruption within the cadre of corrupted R&Js
and the Draw Commission.”

● “Vital to the success of the corruption was the connivence, approval and complicit acknowledgement and support of these activities by the Executive Director and the President. The permanent paid staff worked in a command and obey environment where power was concentrated in the Executive Director and exercised on behalf of the President.”

● “Bouts were manipulated for money, perceived benefit of AIBA, or to thank National
Federations and their Olympic committees, and, on occasion, hosts of competitions for their financial support and political backing. The investigation to date has concluded that such manipulation involved significant six figure sums on occasion. The evidence the [McLaren team] found is thought to be the tip of the iceberg.”

“The President C.K. Wu bears ultimate responsibility for the failures of officiating at Rio and the qualifying events. He was supported by his Executive Director at Rio who were key
actors in organising the field of play to allow the manipulation to flourish.”

The study identified nine bouts that were suspicious beyond two that were talked about as shams in news reports at the time of the Rio Games. There was not enough time to check on all matches and more problems may be found.

The people are the problem,” says the report, noting that disciplinary action may be warranted against Wu (TPE), then-Executive Director Karim Bouzidi (FRA) and some of the referees and judges.

McLaren was only engaged last June to work on this report, using a 10-person staff to investigate and compile the findings. Unfortunately, many potential witnesses “refused to come forward publicly for fear of reprisal, threat to personal security, or loss of employment opportunities among other reasons. Surprisingly, even those who were no longer part of the organisation, either as staff or appointed, felt comfortable to share their evidence only in confidence.”

The report specified that corruption and manipulation took place at all stages of the competition process: the draw that created the matches, selection of the referees and judges and in the refereeing and judging of actual bouts. One example: “at the 2015 Men’s Amateur Championships in Bangkok where Uzbek judge, Sherzod Akhmedov, gave multiple bribes of 5,000 USD, concealed in toothpaste tubes or something similar to six other 3 star R&Js. This was reported and the money returned.”

This had gone on during Wu’s term as President at least as far back as 2011 and involved the then-Executive Director, Ho Kim (KOR). Bribes, attempted bribes, helping boxers from countries which support AIBA financially were all part of the program. One approach to fix a bout in Rio for as much as $250,000 was reported.

AIBA posted a statement that included:

“Prof. McLaren was appointed by AIBA as part of the recognition by the current AIBA leadership that governance, sporting integrity and financial integrity were not previously satisfactory and that there was a need for reform. Prof. McLaren will investigate not only the Rio 2016 boxing tournament but also all key events till now to reach full transparency.”

AIBA President Umar Kremlev (RUS) added, “AIBA hired Professor McLaren because we have nothing to hide. We will work to incorporate any helpful recommendations that are made. We will also take legal advice with regard to what action is possible against those found to have participated in any manipulation. There should be no place in the AIBA family for anyone who has fixed a fight.”

This report was only the beginning. It was noted that “the full reports of the subsequent Stages will be provided in November 2021 and March 2022 in accordance with the terms of reference. The subsequent stages will involve a broad investigation to identify possible acts of corruption, mismanagement of funds, manipulation of results of elections or the like by AIBA in past and current administrations. The objective of all three stages is to enable AIBA to learn from its past.”

There is a lot of learning to do.

None of this helps AIBA’s standing with the International Olympic Committee, which ran the Tokyo 2020 tournament itself. It has to decide whether AIBA is reformable, start all over with a new international federation or just eliminate boxing from the Olympic program for Paris and beyond. It has its own inquiry ongoing, but the decision will need to come within the next few months.

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