BBC Sport – Olympics
Vladimir Nikitin defeated Michael Conlan in the 2016 Olympic quarterfinals
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, there was a system in place for officials to manipulate the outcome of boxing matches, according to an independent investigation.
Professor Richard McLaren, the head of the investigation commissioned by the World Association of Sports, AIBA, said the “seeds were sown years ago”.
“Suspicious” fights included defeats for British Joe Joyce and Irish Michael Conlan.
AIBA said it noted the investigation reports with “concern”.
The investigation also found that the qualifiers for the 2016 Games were the “practice ground” where manipulation methods were “fine-tuned”.
The investigation found that there were two bouts that “publicly broke the system” – including the bantamweight quarter-finals between Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin of Russia.
Conlan was the reigning world and European champion at the time, and his defeat sparked public outcry after he confidently won the fight.
The other was the gold medal heavyweight game between Russian Evgeny Tischenko and Kazakhstan’s Vasily Levit.
The results also challenge the men’s super heavyweight final between Joyce and Frenchman Tony Yoka, in which Joyce won silver.
The investigation found that there were a total of about 11 fights that were “suspicious” – and there could be “others”.
“I’m excited,” Conlan told BBC Sport NI. “It was five years ago and it was a long time coming. I didn’t expect that to happen.
“The fact that it was done and my fight was called up is not news to me, but it is good news. It’s a great day for boxing and for the sport of Olympics.
“The black spot of Rio will always be there and I think if I hadn’t said and done what I did, it probably wouldn’t happen now.
“I think it’s a great day for amateur boxing and especially for the guys who suffered in Rio, me included. It’s a justification.”
Joe Joyce won silver in Rio
Ex-President has the final responsibility
Professor McLaren was appointed sport reform in June as part of the AIBA’s moves – under new President Umar Kremlev – to investigate the Rio 2016 allegations.
After an investigation by the International Olympic Committee, the IOC suspended AIBA in 2017 and banned it from organizing the Tokyo 2020 boxing competition.
Professor McLaren, who investigated government sponsored doping in Russia, found that the tampering structure within AIBA was made possible because key staff ruled that the rules did not apply to them.
He said then AIBA President Wu Ching-kuo “bore the ultimate responsibility for the failure of the Rio governance and qualification events,” and that Wu was supported by his Rio Executive Director, Karim Bouzidi.
“The Executive Director has usurped the powers of the standing commissions. The commissions would allow this, as would the president,” said McLaren.
“Once in power, he would oversee the appointment of umpires and judges (R&Js) who knew what was going on but would obey the manipulations or who were incompetent but when R&J wanted to proceed and were ready to act on it to hold or turn away blind to what was going on. “
Wu was suspended for life by AIBA in 2018.
“Boxing has a problem, it’s not about the rules and processes. It’s a people problem. People have been working outside the rules for too long,” said McLaren.
In a short period of time, AIBA changed its R&J system from judges nominated by its own international federations to an accredited 1-3 star system with the later addition of seven independently mandated permanent 5 star R&Js.
This resulted in “poorly trained” R&Js being “exploited” by those with corrupt motives.
In Rio, the Executive Director selected all of the R&Js. Corrupt members of the draw committee would influence the selection process “so that the ‘right’ R&Js would be able to run the fight as directed”.
In a statement, President Kremlev said: “I am determined to make sure boxers get a fair fight. This determination is shown by AIBA’s clear commitment to uncover the truth and act on it.
“We must now carefully examine the report and see what steps are required to ensure equity. What is important is that we ensure that the mechanisms are in place to show that the results are beyond suspicion.”
Further reports on the investigation will be presented in November and then in March 2022.
“AIBA hired Professor McLaren because we have nothing to hide,” added President Kremlev. “We will work to take into account any helpful recommendations that are given. We will also seek legal advice on what to do against those involved in the tampering.
“There shouldn’t be a place in the AIBA family for someone who has set a fight.”