AIBA to investigate official's corruption claims

Aug. 22, 2008, 12:07 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The International Boxing Association will investigate claims made by a now-suspended official who alleges improprieties in the process used to give refereeing and judging assignments at the Beijing Olympics.

Rudi Obreja, a Romanian boxing executive who served as a technical delegate to the games, made a litany of lurid allegations against AIBA and its officials during an impromptu interview between sessions in Friday's semifinal bouts.

Citing no specific examples, Obreja claimed AIBA officials improperly manipulated the random assignment of referees and judges to suit particular boxers. Obreja, who was about to be removed from a committee in charge of the refereeing draw, has been suspended for speaking outside AIBA's disciplinary process, discipline committee member Tom Virgets said.

"Nothing has been found or proven yet," said technical delegate Terry Smith, Obreja's superior. "The matter is under investigation. Because of the suspicions we've got, the action was taken to make sure nothing developed until the info we have is proven or disproven. We've got no conclusive proof."

Smith said he first heard rumors of "a group of people" making an attempt to manipulate the process two months ago, and AIBA had guarded against any attempt.

AIBA's judging assignments are generated randomly by a computer, with referees and judges barred from participating in any bout with even a remote connection to boxers from their nation. Some AIBA officials still have the right to make changes if the computer-generated assignments miss an obvious conflict, such as a Kazakh fighter who might benefit from a Russian judge.

Obreja's allegations are the first from an AIBA official after two weeks of caterwauling by athletes and coaches over the refereeing and scoring at the Beijing Games. All four fighters who have protested the results of their bouts were denied, while several more have decried the accuracy of the scoring system.

Seemingly everybody thinks they're getting cheated: Chinese lightweight Hu Qing filed a protest over his quarterfinal loss Wednesday, just two bouts after Ukraine's Oleksandr Klyuchko protested the results of his fight against Hu.

Olympic boxing has been a target of judging criticism since at least 1936, with repeated claims of improper influencing and incompetent scoring in the subjective sport. Amateur boxing switched to a computer scoring system in 1992 after Roy Jones Jr.'s infamously unfair loss to a South Korean boxer in the Seoul Games, but Virgets is among those calling for major changes to that points-based system.

That change could be the next priority for AIBA, which has undergone a major overhaul in the nearly two years since Wu Ching-kuo ousted Anwar Chowdhry as president, getting rid of many representatives and judges thought to be ethically compromised.

"We know that the scoring system needs reform, and AIBA are committed to making these reforms over the next year or two," Virgets said.

But Obreja even alleged corruption in Wu's election in 2006, claiming delegates had been paid to vote for the Taiwanese president.

The barrage of accusations against the judging during the Olympics has undone much of the work done to repair AIBA's image, but Virgets said AIBA remains committed to open government of their fractious sport.

"Any allegations with charges that lead us to investigate are taken very seriously," Virgets said. "We will leave no stone unturned in determining what's taken place, and we'll be very transparent."