Vladimir Nikitin defeated Michael Conlan in the 2016 Olympic quarter-final

A system to manipulate the outcome of boxing matches by officials was in place at the Rio 2016 Olympics, an independent investigation has found.

Professor Richard McLaren, the head of the investigation commissioned by the sport’s world governing body AIBA, said the “seeds had been sown” years before.

“Suspicious” bouts included defeats for Great Britain’s Joe Joyce and Ireland’s Michael Conlan.

The AIBA said it noted the investigation’s reports with “concern”.

The investigation also reported that qualifies for the 2016 Games were the “practice ground” in which manipulation methods were “fine-tuned”.

The investigation found there were two bouts that “caused the system to publicly collapse” – including the bantamweight quarter-final between Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin from Russia.

Conlan was the reigning world and European champion at the time, and his defeat led to public outcry after he had appeared to win the bout comfortably.

The other was the gold medal heavyweight match between Russia’s Evgeny Tischenko and Kazakhstan’s Vasily Levit.

The findings also call into question the final of the men’s super heavyweight division between Joyce and France’s Tony Yoka, in which Joyce won silver.

The investigation indicates there were approximately 11 bouts in total that were “suspicious” – and there “maybe others”.

“I’m delighted,” Conlan told BBC Sport NI. “It’s five years on and has been a long time coming. I didn’t expect this to happen.

“The fact it has been done and my fight have been called up – it’s not news to me but it’s good news. It’s a massive day for boxing and for Olympic sport.

“The black mark of Rio will always be there and I think if I hadn’t said what I said and done what I did this probably wouldn’t be happening now.

“I think it’s a huge day for amateur boxing and especially for the guys who suffered in Rio, including myself. It is vindication.”

Joe Joyce looks dejected as James Yoka is named Olympic champion
Joe Joyce won silver at Rio

Ex-president ‘bears ultimate responsibility

Professor McLaren was appointed to investigate the Rio 2016 allegations in June as part of the AIBA’s steps – under new president Umar Kremlev – to reform the sport.

After an investigation by the International Olympic Committee, the IOC suspended the AIBA in 2017, banning it from organizing the Tokyo 2020 boxing competition.

Professor McLaren – who investigated state-sponsored doping in Russia – found the manipulation structure within the AIBA was made possible because key personnel decided the rules did not apply to them.

He said the AIBA’s then-president Wu Ching-Kuo “bears ultimate responsibility for the failures of officiating at Rio and the qualifying events”, and that Wu was supported by his executive director Karim Bouzidi in Rio.

“The executive director seized powers belonging to the permanent commissions. The commissions would let this happen as did the president,” said McLaren.

“Once having acquired the power, he would oversee the appointment of referees and judges (R&Js) that knew what was going on but would comply with the manipulation or who were incompetent but wanted to continue as an R&J so were willing to comply or turn a blind eye to what was going on.”

Wu was handed a lifetime ban by the AIBA in 2018.

“Boxing has a problem, it’s not about the rules and processes. It’s a people problem. For too long people have worked outside the rules,” said McLaren.

In a short period of time, the AIBA changed its R&J system from judges being nominated by their own international federations to an accredited 1-3 star system with the later addition of seven independently contracted 5-star permanent R&Js.

This led to “poorly trained” R&Js being “preyed upon by those who had corrupt motives”.

In Rio, the executive director selected all of the R&Js. Corrupt members of the draw commission would influence the selection process, “so that the ‘right’ R&Js were in a position to officiate the bout as directed”.

In a statement, president Kremlev said: “I am determined to ensure that boxers receive a fair fight. This determination is demonstrated by AIBA’s clear commitment to uncovering the truth and acting on it.

“We must now carefully examine the report and see what steps are needed to ensure justice. What is important is that we make sure the mechanisms are in place to show that results are above suspicion.”

Further reports on the investigation will be provided in November and then in March 2022.

“AIBA hired Professor McLaren because we have nothing to hide,” added president Kremlev. “We will work to incorporate any helpful recommendations that are made. We will also take legal advice with regard to what action is possible against those found to have participated in any manipulation.

“There should be no place in the AIBA family for anyone who has fixed a fight.”

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