Vladimir Nikitin injury adds to Conlan insult as Rio boxing plunges to farcical levels
Controversial judges back in action despite AIBA's move to stand down officials
Two of the scoring judges in Michael Conlan's controversial bantamweight bronze medal contest against Russian Vladimir Nikitin were back officiating yesterday - but the man who ended Conlan's dreams may not compete again.
Silva Do Rosario, from the host nation Brazil, and Udeni Kiridena, from Sri Lanka, acted as judges in the men's flyweight and women's middleweight quarter-finals respectively in the Riocentro.
It also it emerged last night that Nikitin will almost certainly have to concede a walkover in today's 56kg semi-final against 19-year-old Shakur Stevenson from Team USA on medical grounds. The latest twist came on another fraught day in Rio, after Olympic Council of Ireland Pat Hickey was arrested for alleged ticket touting.
Earlier, in response to the growing controversy about the standard of judging at the tournament, the world governing body, AIBA, revealed that a number of judges and referees had been stood down and would not officiate again during the tournament. While the other scoring judge, Poland's Mariusz Gorny, did not officiate yesterday there was no confirmation as to whether he would play any further role in the tournament.
And in another twist to the storyline, it appears that the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) were under the impression that the officials in the Conlan fight had been stood down by AIBA.
Speaking on RTÉ television last night the chief executive of the IABA, Fergal Carruth - who didn't attend the tournament in Rio - said the association "were informed last night that the officials and judges in charge of Michael's bout have been stood down".
This is patently not the case, though a number of unnamed officials have been effectively sacked. The decision by AIBA to issue a statement on the judging controversy underlines the growing disquiet about the standard of judging in the tournament.
While the scoring system, which is modelled on the method used to determine the outcome of professional fights, has been used at all AIBA tournaments since the London Olympics, it has been labelled as unfit for purpose at the Rio Games.
But AIBA have rejected these claims and also thrown cold water on claims that the entire system is effectively corrupt. According to the terse statement, the AIBA's Rules and Judging Commission has reviewed all the 239 bouts which have taken place in the Rio Games.
"It was determined that less than a handful of the decisions were not at the level expected and consequently it has been decided in accordance with AIBA Rules and Judging Committee that the concerned referee and judges will no longer officiate at the Rio Olympics Games. In accordance with AIBA Rules the result of the bouts will stand."
Not surprisingly the statement fails to clarify who the discredited officials are. All this, of course, is cold comfort to Conlan, who saw his Olympic ambitions flounder in a storm of controversy.
While it didn't generate as much publicity as the Conlan decision, the heavyweight final between the Russian champion Evgeny Tishchenko and Vassiliy Levit from Kazakhstan was highly contentious as well. While the Russian secured the win on a unanimous 3-0 decision most observers felt that Levit had won the fight.
Nikitin, meanwhile, went into Tuesday's bruising encounter against Conlan with a head wound which quickly opened up again.
US coach Billy Walsh said last night that he expected Stevenson would receive a walkover today which guarantees the young American fighter a silver medal and a place in Saturday's final.
However, a final decision will not be announced until after this morning's weigh-in. All Olympic boxers have to pass a rigorous medical test before each fight and it appears Nikitin will have to be content with a bronze medal.
Conlan will turn professional after he returns to Ireland after the Olympics even though his dream of securing a gold medal has vanished. The only issue to be resolved is which promoter he links up with.