The Special Investigation Committee of AIBA (International Boxing Association) has concluded its investigations into some controversial decisions made by referees during the Rio Olympics last year. The panel included esteemed personalities from its Refereeing and Judging (R&J), Technical and Rules and Disciplinary Commissions. The SIC’s recommendations for improvements to the R&J structure for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have also been put in place, according to a release.
The investigation was ordered by the AIBA president Dr Ching-Kuo Wu after some irregularities in decisions in the Rio Olympics raised eyebrows. The investigation began in mid-September, and it took place in two phases across four months, with over 50 interviews conducted. The report says,“Due to a lack of proper procedural norms, a concentration of decision-making power and the assigning of roles assumed by former senior management that had a detrimental impact on in-competition best practice. Whilst the Special Investigation found no active interference in the results, AIBA moved quickly to identify those involved and took the necessary steps to ensure its officials will no longer become scapegoats for close decisions which are an inherent aspect of the sport.”
The AIBA president adds, “AIBA defends the integrity of its expert R&Js who operate in difficult, subjective circumstances, but we have shown that we are also not afraid of making difficult decisions for the good of boxing. An unwelcome axis of influence and sole decision-making had been created and used by former Senior Management that led to a lack of due process being carried out. We moved immediately to re-empower our commissions and use their expertise in order to decentralise the decision-making and re-establish our procedures. Whilst there is no evidence that this had a direct influence on results in Rio, if best practice is not followed 100% of the time by our officials and R&Js, that is unacceptable. The SIC have conducted a thorough investigation and many of their recommendations, including the disbanding of the 5-star R&J structure and placing control of the FOP back in the hands of the Tournament Supervisor, have already been put into place. These actions will ensure even greater consistency and transparency in our officiating as we head into the new Olympic Cycle.”
As per the findings of the report, the actions AIBA has taken since the Rio 2016 Olympics and the organisation’s current positive steps are justified. “Following the removal of these mechanisms that threatened the integrity of the organisation, the SIC also found unprofessional relationships within AIBA had created an atmosphere of collusion between senior management and the Five-Star R&Js that undermined the organisation and had a negative impact on its operating efficiency,” the findings say.
The SIC recommendations have already been implemented. The Five-star R&J system has been cancelled with the unanimous agreement of the R&J Commission. “Improvements to the in-competition administration of officials have already been trialled and approved for AOB tournaments in 2017 after being successfully trial run at the Youth World Championships in St Petersburg in November 2016,” the release says.
The R&J Draw Commission has been removed and an automated Swiss Timing system will assign officials to matches, with all five Judges’ scorecards now used to determine the winner of a bout. Changes to the Field of Play (FOP) will now give R&Js the best ambience to operate and be evaluated, while the Executive Director, or any AIBA staff member, will no longer have any role in the FOP.
To save AIBA’s face a broad education programme will be undertaken with boxers, coaches, officials and fans for better greater understanding of scoring. AIBA also maintains that while the decision to stand down all 36 R&Js officiating at Rio 2016 was necessary until the SIC investigation was over as a preventive measure, it doesn’t prove they were at a fault. The reintegration process of these officials into the new R&J structure will be held on a case by case basis.
The AIBA Ethics Commission Chair has been authorised to analyse issues pertaining to the general organisation of the Association to propose operational and governance reforms to the President and the Executive Committee. The statement also adds, “The organisation stands more united than ever as witnessed in the last Extraordinary Congress held in Montreux, but will continue to tackle any incident of impropriety that dishonours it or the sport with the utmost severity, and repeats its commitment to ensuring the values of fair play and transparency are upheld at all times by the entire AIBA Family, its staff and stakeholders.”