By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Boxing body AIBA has sidelined all 36 referees and judges used at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics until an investigation has been concluded, it said on Thursday.
The tournament in August was embroiled in controversy surrounding the new ’10-point must’ scoring system, with allegations by some beaten boxers that they were robbed of victory.
Ireland’s world bantamweight champion Michael Conlan was one of the most vociferous critics of the judging in Rio, calling AIBA “cheats” after he was controversially beaten on points by Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in a quarter-final bout.
“While the majority of the boxing competition in Rio 2016 was received very positively… a small number of decisions under debate indicated that further reforms in the AIBA R&J (referee and judging) procedures were necessary,” the International Boxing Association said in a statement.
“The results of a specific R&J investigation, currently underway, will allow AIBA to fully assess what action needs to be taken.
“In the meantime, it has been decided that all 36 R&Js that were used at the Olympic Games will not officiate at any AIBA event until the investigation reaches its conclusion, along with further immediate measures adopted by the commissions.”
AIBA dropped a number of unidentified judges and referees during the competition, after finding that “less than a handful” of the decisions from 239 bouts reviewed were not at the level expected.
It also reassigned its French executive director Karim Bouzidi to a new role.
AIBA said its Referees&Judges and Technical&Rules commissions had met in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss reforms and a ‘road map’ for the next Olympic cycle leading to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“Boxing was in the spotlight (in Rio) for positive reasons, but occasionally also for the wrong ones,” AIBA president Wu Ching-kuo said.
AIBA said that although the scoring system occasionally led to ‘misunderstandings’, it remained the best method.
However, the commission had recommended in future opening up all five of the ringside judges’ scorecards to determine the winner of the bout.
In Rio, the scores of only three judges counted after being chosen at random by a computer.
The boxing body also recommended that, for greater transparency, the assignation of judges and referees for each bout be automated rather than chosen by a three-person draw commission.
“Moving forward it is essential that the reputation of the R&Js is restored,” AIBA added.
“The judging system can never become a scapegoat for boxers and coaches who perform disappointingly in the ring and display inappropriate behavior or comments to media.
“This will be even more closely monitored in the future and firm disciplinary action will be taken when necessary.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)