McLaren report finds boxing bouts at Rio 2016 were fixed, blames a “people problem” within AIBA

An informal structure within the boxing federation, along with a culture of fear, circumvented “a reasonable and workable constitutional structure”, according to Richard McLaren.

2016 Rio Olympics - Boxing - Quarterfinal - Men's Bantam (56kg) Quarterfinals Bout 223 - Riocentro - Pavilion 6 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 16/08/2016. Michael Conlan (IRL) of Ireland lost to Vladimir Nikitin (RUS) of Russia in one of the controversial decisions at the Rio boxing tournament  REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo
2016 Rio Olympics - Boxing - Quarterfinal - Men's Bantam (56kg) Quarterfinals Bout 223 - Riocentro - Pavilion 6 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 16/08/2016. Michael Conlan (IRL) of Ireland lost to Vladimir Nikitin (RUS) of Russia in one of the controversial decisions at the Rio boxing tournament REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

An informal structure to support the manipulation and corruption of boxing bouts was in place during qualifying for Rio 2016 and at the Olympic Games themselves.

That’s the conclusion of the first of three stages of Richard McLaren’s Independent Boxing Investigation, the findings of which were released on Thursday.

“We have confirmed that a bout manipulation system by officials existed at Rio,” McLaren said at a press conference unveiling the report, which focused on the refereeing and judging around the Rio Olympics.

“The seeds of that system were sown years before starting from at least the Olympic Games of the 21st century through the events around 2011 and London 2012. The qualifying competitions prior to Rio in 2016, in 2015, were the practice ground for the corruption and manipulation of the bouts for Rio.”

McLaren says “boxing has a problem. However, it’s not about the rules or processes. It’s a people problem!

“The formal structure of AIBA is a reasonable and workable constitutional structure. The structure on paper would appear to ensure the oversight and fair play is achieved. However, the problems come from the fact that woven into the formal structure is an informal institutionalized structure that overrides the checks and balances of the former thereby serving the purpose of facilitating the manipulation and corruption which has evolved in the sport over the years.”

“Ultimately, the informal structure allowed complicit and compliant referees and judges, known as R&Js, to be assigned to specific bouts to ensure the manipulation of outcomes. Let me be clear, the bout manipulation structure was made possible not because of a lack of internal checks and balances. Key personnel decided that the rules did not apply to them. "

“They used the power of the internal structure they created to take advantage of a culture of fear and obedience that placed perks in position above ethics.”

McLaren put the blame squarely on the then AIBA President CK Wu and his executive director Karim Bouzidi.

Former AIBA president CK Wu (second from left) and executive director Karim Bouzidi (center) in June 2016 (AIBA)
Former AIBA president CK Wu (second from left) and executive director Karim Bouzidi (center) in June 2016 (AIBA)

“The president of the AIBA at the time bears ultimate responsibility for the failures of officiating at Rio and its qualifying events. It was supported by his executive director who was the key actor in organizing the field of play to allow manipulation to flourish.”

Bouzidi was re-assigned by AIBA with four days left in the boxing competition in Rio in the fallout from a series of controversial decisions where the clear losers of bouts were declared the winners. The day before, an undisclosed number of unnamed referees and judges were also removed.

When asked how many bouts in Rio were compromised, McLaren said that while more analysis needs to be completed to reach a final conclusion, there are 11 bouts at this stage that are considered “suspicious”. He added that he cannot say for certain how many were corrupted.

Richard McLaren at his press conference on Sept. 30.
Richard McLaren at his press conference on Sept. 30.

McLaren says his team has only recently received the five bout sheets from the judges at every fight in Rio. Swiss Timing, the electronic system operator for the tournament, supplied the bout sheets because AIBA “did not have its own records”. Three of the five bout sheets are used in determining a winner and are to be chosen randomly by the technology. McLaren added that “we do not think” Swiss Timing had any part in the scheme.

AIBA President Umar Kremlev, in a statement, said “Professor McLaren and his team have identified a system for manipulating the results of bouts at the Rio 2016 boxing tournament.

“We must now carefully examine the report and see what steps are needed to ensure justice. What is important is that we make sure the mechanisms are in place to show that results are above suspicion.

“AIBA hired Professor McLaren because we have nothing to hide,” continued Kremlev. “We will work to incorporate any helpful recommendations that are made. We will also take legal advice with regard to what action is possible against those found to have participated in any manipulation. There should be no place in the AIBA family for anyone who has fixed a fight.”

The boxing federation said that referees, judges and technical officials being appointed to the upcoming AIBA Men’s World Boxing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia now face tough selection criteria, including background and other checks conducted by McLaren Global Sport Solutions (MGSS).

AIBA also said that a random selection element has been introduced during the competition and further training will be carried out onsite, including but not limited to, a module on enhanced ethics and behavioral provisions. Comprehensive mechanisms are in place to evaluate scoring, and scoring is now displayed live during bouts.

McLaren’s team will continue its investigation, as it looks into more recent boxing tournaments and also into the activity of individuals previously involved in AIBA management and administration.

The entire report released on Thursday can be found here.