IOC Response over WBC's Olympic Boxing Discrimination Claim Seems to Leave Door Open for Change of Heart
By Callum Murray in Lausanne, Switzerland
The International Olympic Committee appears to have left the door open for negotiations with AIBA, the international boxing association with responsibility for boxing at the Olympic Games, over eligibility criteria for professional boxers competing at the games, after coming in for strong criticism for alleged discrimination from the World Boxing Council, one of the sport’s professional bodies.
The WBC last week accused AIBA of discrimination and a restraint of trade because boxers taking part in the series are paid to do so and are therefore professional, but are still allowed to take part in the Olympic Games, whereas other professional boxers taking part in bouts organised by sanctioning bodies such as the WBC are not.
The IOC pointed out that AIBA will have to present its eligibility criteria to the IOC ahead of the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, just as it did ahead of the 2012 games. The London games were the first in which World Series of Boxing fighters competed, with 50 WSB boxers taking part, in a move publicly endorsed by IOC president Jacques Rogge. However, the IOC’s stress on AIBA’s need to present its eligibility criteria again seems to point to the possibility that the IOC will take the WBC objections into account for the 2016 games.
The WBC had also hit out at the IOC last week, saying that it had sent the IOC “three inquiries about the AIBA/WSB’s discriminatory actions” and asking Rogge to “endorse or disavow AIBA/WSB’s actions, which are illegal and in violation of the rights of the citizens of every nation and their legal boxing institutions.”
However, the WBC said, “Rogge and the IOC have not given the WBC even the courtesy of a response.”
In response, the IOC told Sportcal: “AIBA has made a number of changes to its statutes that are currently being dealt with at the level of the national federations. We have received a number of inquiries regarding the impact these new directives will have on the Olympic Games.
“As far as the IOC is concerned, AIBA is fully independent as outlined in the Olympic Charter. But they will have to present their new eligibility conditions prior to Rio 2016, just as they did prior to London 2012 with regard to the participation of WSB boxers. Lastly, a response will be sent to the WBC in due course.”
The WBC said in a statement last week: “The World Boxing Council (WBC) and its President Josť SulaimŠn strongly object to the steps taken by the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) to organise professional boxing tournaments under the name WSB. According to AIBA/WSB, only boxers registered in their tournament will be eligible to compete at the Olympic Games to the exclusion of any boxers affiliated with any other organisation. All boxers worldwide eligible under current Olympic Games’ requirements, regardless of their country of origin or the organisation with which they are affiliated, should have the same opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games. The WBC says AIBA/WSB’s actions clearly constitute an attempt to establish a monopoly and a restraint of trade.”
AIBA declined to respond to the WBC's claims when approached by Sportcal.
The WBC’s stance received strong endorsement from one UK sports lawyer contacted by Sportcal.
Stephen Hornsby, a partner at Goodman Derrick LLP, the London law firm, said: “I agree completely with WBC. The IOC is at fault here for only allowing access to the Olympics to AIBA boxers. This monopoly allows AIBA leverage to drive WBC out of business by this extension of its remit.
“Legal action must be inevitable and ought to succeed.”
The WSB, which this season involves 14 national franchises, as opposed to city-based franchises in the first two seasons, is organised by AIBA and was launched to change an established pattern in which up-and-coming amateur boxers made their names through competing in the Olympics and then frequently signed professional forms with a commercial promoter.
WSB boxers are still considered amateur – although they are paid by their franchises – and can still compete in events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
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