Sport Rio 2016 Olympics

Saturday 18 August 2018

'We would have brought three or four medals back from Rio' - Anger at damning Olympics report

16 August 2016; Michael Conlan of Ireland following his Bantamweight Quarter final defeat to Vladimir Nikitin of Russia at the Riocentro Pavillion 6 Arena during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
16 August 2016; Michael Conlan of Ireland following his Bantamweight Quarter final defeat to Vladimir Nikitin of Russia at the Riocentro Pavillion 6 Arena during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ian Begley

Irish boxer Michael Conlan's prospects of an Olympic gold were robbed before he even stepped into the ring, according to a damning new report.

Joe Hennigan, the manager of the Irish boxing team at the Rio Olympics, confirmed that coaches were warned to "be careful" ahead of Conlan's controversial defeat.

Conlan was dramatically upset in his bantamweight quarter-final by Russian Vladimir Nikitin, despite post-fight statistics clearly showing that the Belfast boxer landed far more punches.

The Olympic bronze medallist subsequently embarked on a profanity-filled televised tirade, where he accused the AIBA, the sport's governing body, of corruption.

A shocking report, compiled by Mr Hennigan, claims that Irish coach Zaur Antia had been informed prior to Conlan's fight that something untoward could occur.

"I wouldn't go as far to say it was fixed but we had heard that we would want to 'be careful', this kind of jazz," Hennigan told Independent.ie.

Michael Conlan let ringside judges know exactly what he thought after his controversial defeat by Russian boxer Vladimir Nikitin at the Rio Olympics. Picture: Sportsfile
Michael Conlan let ringside judges know exactly what he thought after his controversial defeat by Russian boxer Vladimir Nikitin at the Rio Olympics. Picture: Sportsfile

"Indirectly, I was talking to other people.

"That came through Zaur. It was only in passing that this came up, everybody was talking to everybody."

Hennigan also confirmed that he aired concerns around Katie Taylor and Joe Ward's defeats in his report, as well as that of the Belfast boxer.

"The three people that I mentioned in the report were Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Joe Ward," Hennigan said.

"To me it was a complete joke that Conlan lost that fight when he definitely won it by four or five miles."

Hennigan said that competition rules left the Irish team with little recourse by which to lodge a protest.

"The stupidity of all this  is that you cannot complain against a judge," he said.

"You can only complain against a referee, so you are wasting your time complaining."

Katie Taylor failed to medal in Rio
Katie Taylor failed to medal in Rio

Former Irish Olympian Kenny Egan spoke of his "disgust" at the apparent corruption in amateur boxing.

Speaking to Independent.ie, the silver medallist said he was glad Conlan's controversial loss was aired in front of millions of people.

"When he lost his fight in Rio, the whole world could see that the scoring was not right," he said.

"It's heartbreaking stuff. I spoke to Michael after the fight and he said that his dad told him to knock Vladimir Nikitin out.

"It only dawned on him after the fight was over that his father must have known what was going on."

Egan believes that without the Olympic fights being fixed, Ireland could have brought home an extra three or four medals.

"It's so upsetting for the world of amateur boxing," he said.

"Our boxers put their whole lives into getting to the Olympic Games and when they get there their fate is already decided by a group of corrupt judges.

"Without all of this going on we would have brought three or four medals back from Rio."

During Egan's Olympic feat in 2008, he does not believe he was cheated out of a gold medal.

"When I was competing in Beijing, the fights were scored differently than they are now and for me I thought it was pretty fair," he said.

"But everything that's happening now just goes to show how the AIBA need to pull up their socks. Boxing has been in the Olympic Games for more than 100 years and if they don't get their act together, the sport may not be allowed to be held in 2020."

Two-time Dublin Olympian Philip Sutcliffe told Independent.ie there has been a long history of corruption in amateur boxing.

"There has always been countries, especially Russia, that would get the nod quicker than smaller countries like Ireland – that's been going on for a very long time," he said.

"If AIBA don't take control of their judges then there's always going to be the human factor of bribery and corruption.

"Even though this has all come out into the open, I'm very upset that Michael Conlan was robbed of his Olympic dream and that Katie Taylor couldn't prove that she could bring home two gold medals. Both of them, and Paddy Barnes, were at a disadvantage right from the start."

When Sutcliffe competed at the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games, he also did not believe he was cheated out of a medal.

"My fights were very close and I was beaten by very good opponents. The first time around I had a bone broken in my right hand, so I wouldn't argue that the fight was unfair. But even back then it was known that corruption existed within the sport," he said.

During the Rio Games, the AIBA suspended a number of referees and judges due to "decisions that were not at the expected level".

The following November, all 36 judges who officiated in Rio were suspended while AIBA carried out an investigation.

Last month, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said boxing's place at the 2020 Olympic Games could be in jeopardy.

"The IOC reserves the right to review the inclusion of boxing on the programme of the Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires 2018 and the Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020," he said.

"We are extremely worried about the governance in AIBA."

The IOC executive board was "not satisfied" with a report prepared by AIBA on its governance, finances, refereeing and anti-doping issues.

As a result, an investigation has been opened, led by the IOC chief ethics and compliance officer.

All contracts with AIBA have been frozen, along with all financial payments to AIBA, which is expected to produce a further report by the end of April.

CONCERNS

Bach was asked whether the IOC had any concerns over the judging at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and admitted it did.

"From the fact that refereeing is part of the decision we already took in December last year and we were requesting more information, you can conclude we're still looking into this issue," he added.

Conlan and Taylor have since left amateur boxing behind, with both having success in their professional careers.

Conlan's furious rant after losing out in his quarter-final bout with Nikitin was viewed all around the world.

Referring to the AIBA, he said: "They're cheating b*****ds, they're paying everybody. They're known for being cheats and they'll always be cheats. Amateur boxing stinks from the core to the top... today just showed how corrupt this organisation is."

A spokeswoman for the IABA told Independent.ie: "AIBA the world body for boxing is due to submit a revised report on the Rio Olympic Games to the IOC by the end of April.

"Until those findings have been published and considered, the IABA is not in a position to comment."

Herald

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