Investigator warns boxing to change to save Olympic status

LASANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Swiss city of Lausanne has been the scene of a number of high- Boxing officials were warned on Monday to change their long-standing tradition of breaking the rules in order to keep their sport in the Olympics.

Richard McLaren, an investigator hired by the new leadership of AIBA to win over the IOC and get the sport back into the Olympics, said “corruption abounds” in AIBA.

C.K. Wu’s presidency from 2006 to 2017 left a legacy of financial and bout integrity issues, but McLaren also pointed to ongoing alleged misconduct at recent boxing events.

“Unjustified” judging scores and warnings by referees to boxers, as well as secret signaling between officials in the arenas, were highlighted in the 114-page final investigation report.

McLaren opined that the sport’s participants must undergo a transformation. As one expert put it, “They’ve established learned behaviors in a society that hasn’t always valued morality or honesty.”

22 “high-risk officials” were removed from consideration for appointment as judges and referees, according to McLaren’s announcement at a press conference. Three cases had been forwarded for disciplinary action, and 15 additional officials had been placed under closer supervision.

McLaren’s revelations about “complicit and compliant” referees and judges at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games fueled IOC concerns about boxing’s ability to reform.

The IOC cut ties with AIBA in 2019 and boxing has been omitted from consideration for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Under the leadership of Russian president Umar Kremlev and with a deadline of mid-2023 to persuade the IOC, the rebranded International Boxing Association enlisted McLaren to identify and drive change in areas that needed improvement.

On Monday, a Canadian law professor said, “If the sport is to retain its place in the Olympic family, it needs to act now.”

Wu’s “big dream” to organize a professional boxing series for AIBA’s demise was highlighted by the financial crisis and its subsequent fallout.

McLaren said that “corruption was rampant.” It had the effect of making officials at all levels of the sport believe they could break the rules without repercussion.

The investigation found that Wu, a long-time IOC member, was distracted at AIBA by his failed 2013 bid for the presidency of the Olympic body. Six candidates competed in the election, which was won by Thomas Bach.

As a result of the IOC’s concerns, voters chose Gafur Rakhimov to replace the Taiwanese official at AIBA.

Kremlev, who was elected first in 2020 and cleared IBA’s debts by bringing in Russian energy firm Gazprom as a sponsor, has also failed to convince the IOC.

There is no doubt that the Gazprom sponsorship has saved AIBA,” McLaren’s report stated, exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Building confidence in boxing’s governance and the integrity of future bouts was recommended by the establishment of a school for judges and officials, which was done. With fewer people accredited, the boxing governing body in Lausanne should have tighter control over the field of play.

McLaren concluded, “I am confident that boxing is not out of the woods.”

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