(AFP) – Aug 23, 2008
BEIJING (AFP) — Boxing officials were battling to contain a major scandal on Saturday as serious claims of bribery and the manipulation of Olympic judging panels emerged after a series of disputed bouts.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) suspended Romanian technical delegate Rudel Obreja after he held an impromptu and rowdy press conference and made lurid allegations against senior officials.
AIBA also revealed that it had been tracking "possible attempts of manipulation" for more than two months and had brought in an International Olympic Committee (IOC) observer "when the situation became more serious".
At a testy media conference late on Friday, AIBA technical delegate Terry Smith was grilled by journalists who questioned a series of Olympic results.
Smith insisted none of the fights was fixed although he said the scoring system, where three out of five judges need to press a button simultaneously for a point to be awarded, was under review.
"I'm quite confident that nothing has affected these bouts," Smith said.
He denied Obreja's suspension was a "tit-for-tat" move after the Romanian said a top official was involved in manipulating judging panels and claimed bribery was at work in AIBA presidential elections of 2006.
Taiwanese President Wu Ching-kuo declined to address the disciplinary affair but admitted judging standards needed a shake-up.
"You can see from this tournament how we need to upgrade the level of the judges," he told journalists on Saturday.
"We need re-education and re-training to achieve a higher level. No more cheating, no more manipulation but better referee judges."
Obreja's unauthorised news conference on Friday ended in chaos when it was interrupted by AIBA secretary-general Ho Kim and the two traded heated remarks.
Obreja had been about to be removed from the commission overseeing the computerised refereeing draw, according to disciplinary official Tom Virgets.
The extraordinary developments accompany a series of ringside controversies which have incensed the boxers and coaches involved.
Frenchman Alexis Vastine screamed and wept after Dominican Felix Diaz was awarded a decisive two-point penalty for holding in the dying seconds of their light welterweight semi-final.
"I've been robbed," said Vastine. "I didn't know that could happen at the Olympics."
Irish light flyweight Paddy Barnes was staggered not to be awarded a single point against Zou Shiming in the Chinese world champion's 15-0 victory.
The Algerian camp had also claimed Ouatah Newfel was unfairly eliminated from the super heavyweight quarter-finals to smooth the path of China's Zhang Zhilei.
Ukrainian fighter Vyacheslav Glazkov, who beat Newfel and was due to face Zhang in the semis, withdrew at the last minute on Friday with an elbow injury.
AIBA's Smith said there had been no foul play, adding Obreja's allegations were "totally wrong".
"I will be the first to admit that not every point scored in boxing is recorded," he said.
"There will be points missed but we know most of the time that the right boxer wins the contest."
Smith added that Obreja's claims were under investigation and that AIBA hoped to settle the matter soon.
Disciplinary commission member Virgets also praised the reforms to the AIBA under president Wu Ching-Kuo.
"For 20 years this has been an organisation that has been under a cloud of suspicion but we have seen in the last year or so, under the new reforms, that that suspicion has been largely reduced," Virgets said.
Olympic boxing has a turbulent history including attacks on referees and sit-down protests. At Seoul 1988, Korean boxing officials attacked New Zealand referee Keith Walker, sparking a full-scale riot.
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