By Nick Butler |
International Boxing Association (AIBA) executive director Tom Virgets has insisted that there was “incompetent” but not corrupt judging during the 216 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro while outlining his platform for change within the under-fire body.
He also admitted that the organization still has “areas of disagreements” with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the plans to redistribute male and female categories but have now accepted that they will have to cut two male ones from the program.
The sport remains on probation by the IOC and at risk of being expelled from Tokyo 2020 if concerns are not addressed soon.
It follows a tumultuous 2017 in which former President C K Wu of Taiwan eventually resigned following open opposition from AIBA Executive Committee members following a wave of financial, administrative and judging problems.
The appointment of Gafur Rakhimov, a Uzbek allegedly linked to organised crime, as Interim President in January created further ruptures with the IOC.
IOC President Thomas Bach warned in February that the appointment of Rakhimov was among “serious problems” that AIBA faced.
He also said they have not yet accepted AIBA’s claim that no bouts at Rio 2016 were affected by match-fixing.
Irish bantamweight world champion Michael Conlan was involved in one of the most controversial contests of Rio 2016 after appearing to dominate a quarter-final against Vladimir Nikitin before the Russian was awarded the victory.
Other suspect results at Rio 2016 included Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko winning the gold medal in the men’s heavyweight final over Kazakhstan’s Vassily Levit, even though he appeared to be on the back-foot throughout.
An AIBA investigation was held last year on possible bout-fixing, but its findings have never been published.
All 36 referees and judges used at Rio 2016 remain suspended but a separate investigation into what happened there is now being carried-out by the IOC.
“I think that we had significant incompetence in the judging, I have no reason to believe that there was corruption,” Virgets told insidethegames here at the SportAccord Summit.
“There’s no evidence of corruption.
“We had incompetence and we are addressing that by putting in better training and looking in ways to improve the objectivity of our judging using technology, changing positions of where are officials are and just making sure that we have individuals who are more capable of judging in such a large arena.”
Virgets claimed they are striving to eradicate the “disconnect” between criteria used by coaches and officials.
“We have to remember that boxing is more than offence: It is offence, defense, ring craftsmanship, controlled aggression, fortitude…” he said.
Virgets, the American appointed to his current position by Rakhimov, repeatedly praised the contribution the President had made in resolving financial problems since his arrival.
“There’s speculation obviously on our President,” he said.
“For me, I would ask the IOC to treat him the same as they treat their own members and that is innocent until proven guilty.”
Rakhimov is not present here due to prior business commitments and AIBA is instead being represented by Virgets and Canada’s interim administrator Pat Fiacco.
Virgets insisted that he has full operational control and that have already taken steps to reduce the power of the President.
“It was very important for me coming to this job, that I was going to have autonomy running the operations of this organization,” he said.
“I think that the initial changes have really strengthened the organisation and put the power where it needs to be for it to grow.”
A missing $10 million loan reached with Azerbaijan company Benkons MMC had been among the central issues at the heart of the financial problems under the Wu administration.
Rakhimov, Vigets claimed, has negotiated a deal where AIBA will pay-back $5 million without any interest in “manageable” yearly $1 million installments beginning in 2020.
The other $5 million will “go to some sponsorship agreements we are working with Benkons over the period with the loan”.
Rakhimov has also bought-out the lease on AIBA’s lavish new headquarters building which had been due to occupy an entire floor of the Maison du Sport building close to their current home in Lausanne.
Virgets described this as “very important because our new lease would have cost us two-and-a-half times what our existing lease was”.
“We could not afford it and it would have really hurt us if we had had to keep it,” he added.
AIBA officials have previously vowed to fight the IOC ruling that they must drop two male weight classes from the Tokyo 2020 program to make way for two additional female ones: meaning eight male and five female.
They have not yet decided how to do this and may either drop two classes – probably from the lighter weight divisions – or redistribute them all.
As well as the loss to the men’s side, AIBA had also raised concerns about the premature expansion of the women’s sport when the depth of quality is still low.
Taylah Robertson of Australia won an under-51 kilograms bronze medal at this month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast by default, despite not winning a single fight as there were only seven entries.
“The IOC has a desire to advance gender equality across the board,” Virgets told insidethegames.
“We support this and we are implementing numerous programs to advance gender equality and we want to see, at some point, balance in our programs.
“I suppose the difference is the timeline by which the IOC would like to see this happen and what we believe is safe and realistic to make it happen.
“We’re are in negotiations with [this] because we have some areas of disagreement.
“But, I think that going forward we are going to ensure that it is competitive and, whatever that number is of females in the Olympics this time, is reflective of competitive weight classes.”
Virgets would not divulge, however, on whether AIBA will shift era from the Wu-era attempt to integrate professional boxing into the Olympic fold.
“I’m operations, that’s a decision to be made at Executive Committee level,” he said.
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.