Boxing

Michael Conlan wants medal he was denied after report confirms corruption at Rio Olympic Games

Michael Conlan made his feelings clear after his 'loss' to Vladimir Nikitin at the Rio Olympic Games
Andy Watters

MICHAEL Conlan hopes to get the bronze medal, the least he deserves, after an independent report confirmed “manipulation and corruption” by referees and judges at the Rio Olympic Games.

Pictures of Conlan's middle-digit ring protest in the wake of his shocking quarter-final ‘loss' to Russia's Vladimir Nikitin were beamed across the world as the sport plunged deeper and deeper into an immoral abyss in 2016.

Five years' on, Conlan-Nikitin and 10 other contests have been identified as suspicious bouts which were manipulated for money, perceived benefit of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), or to thank National Federations and their Olympic committees and hosts of competitions for their financial support and political backing.

“It's brilliant,” said Conlan after the publication of stage one of an AIBA-commissioned independent investigation carried out by Professor Richard McLaren.

“If I'm honest, it has given me a bigger possibility of receiving the medal I wanted, which I believe I deserve. I believe I deserved gold, I'm not going to get that but I should get the medal that I'd have if I'd won that fight and I would love it.

“I've seen people say I should throw it in the bin if they do give me it but I wouldn't do that. It's vindication; it's a reassurance that, when you know you're right, you're right!”

A disillusioned Conlan turned pro after the Games and comprehensively out-boxed Nikitin at Madison Square Garden in 2019 to move to 13-0 as a pro. He has moved on from having his Olympic gold-medal dreams stolen by behind-the-scenes skulduggery but can still recall how he felt after the battered Russian's hand was raised in Rio.

“I remember standing in the shower crying for half-an-hour,” he said.

“I was devastated, it was my dream to be an Olympic champion, I never dreamt of anything else in boxing – it was all about being an Olympic champion. It was taking away from me and I'll never have the chance to get it back.

“I'm over it now and when I look at where I am now it's probably the best thing that could happened in terms of my pro career but at the same time my dream of being an Olympic champion will never be realised. That's something that will live with me forever but it's something I'm able to live with.”

Omagh native Michael Gallagher was one of six referees sent home early from the Rio Games. Gallagher was one of the judges involved in a controversial verdict in the men's heavyweight final won by Russia's Evgeny Tischenko against Kazakhstan's Vassiliy Levit which has also been flagged-up in McLaren's report.

No decision has been made on whether the results of manipulated bouts will be overturned but McLaren does not rule it out. He refers to a “shadow structure” that he says was woven into the formal structure of IABA.

"It allowed complicit and compliant referees and judges to be assigned to specific bouts to manipulate the outcomes,” he wrote.

"The manipulation and corruption depended on the explicit participation of key personnel who took on powers they did not have on paper.

"For example, the Executive Director at Rio (Karim Bouzidi) seized powers belonging to the permanent Commissions. He oversaw the appointment of referees and judges that were either in the know and complied with the manipulation or were incompetent but wanted to keep their jobs, so they complied or turned a blind eye.”

And the corruption goes deeper than the Games themselves. McLaren concluded that the qualifying competitions for the Rio Olympics were the “practise grounds” for the corruption and manipulation of bouts in Brazil.

"We will never know the precise number of officials involved, the number of bouts manipulated or the rewards for doing so," he added.

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