Fighting to keep their sport in the Olympics, boxing officials were told on Monday to change its historical culture of breaking the rules.
Investigator Richard McLaren, a Canadian law professor, said that “corruption abounded” in the world boxing body formerly known as the AIBA, as he delivered a final report commissioned by the new leadership trying to win over the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and get reinstated in the Olympics.
McLaren traced a legacy of financial and bout integrity issues to the 2006-2017 presidency of C.K. Wu, although he pointed to continued alleged misconduct at boxing tournaments.
The 114-page final report highlighted concerns with “unjustifiable” judging scores and warnings by referees to boxers, plus secret signaling between officials.
“The people in the sport must change,” McLaren said.
Bouts at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges were detailed by McLaren last year and fueled the IOC’s doubts about boxing’s ability to reform.
The IOC removed the AIBA in 2019 from any involvement in the Tokyo Olympics and boxing has been left off the list of sports for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
Given until the middle of next year to convince the IOC, the rebranded International Boxing Association (IBA) under president Umar Kremlev of Russia enlisted McLaren to identify its past problems and help drive change.
“If the sport is to retain its place in the Olympic family, it needs to act now,” he said.
McLaren highlighted the financial crisis and fallout from Wu’s misguided “big dream” to organize a professional boxing series for accelerating the AIBA’s decline.
“Corruption abounded,” he said. “The trickle-down effect was that officials at all levels of the sport felt they could bend the rules with impunity.”
Wu was a long-time IOC member who, the investigation suggested, was distracted from the AIBA by his failed run for the Olympic body’s presidency in 2013.
The Taiwanese official was replaced at the IBA by Gafur Rakhimov, who had alleged ties to drug trafficking and who voters chose despite the IOC’s concerns.
The IOC has also been unconvinced by Kremlev, elected first in 2020 and who cleared IBA’s debts by bringing in Russian energy firm Gazprom as a sponsor.
“Whatever the debate about the source of funds, exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is no doubt that the Gazprom sponsorship has saved the IBA,” McLaren’s report said.
“I am confident that boxing is not down for the count,” McLaren said.
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