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AIBA have shamed themselves by axing officials, says Donnelly

By David Kelly

Olympic quarter-finalist Steven Donnelly welcomed the World amateur governing body's decision to stand down all officials who took part in Rio but also insists it is a damning indictment on those who chose them in the first place.

Yesterday, AIBA took the surprise decision of sidelining all 36 officials used in Rio until a full investigation into the standard of officiating at the 2016 Games is carried out.

Donnelly, rapped by AIBA for betting on contests in Rio, including one of his own which he won, feels it is time for a root and branch revolutionary change in the sport in order to make sure there is no repeat of what happened at the Games when there were numerous controversial decisions.

Most notably, Michael Conlan was robbed of a semi-final spot in the bantamweight division when the decision was given to Vladimir Nikitin, and the Russian's countryman Evgeny Tishchenko was disgracefully given the decision in the heavyweight final - when one of the judges was Omagh official Michael Gallagher.

Gallagher is not only one of the 36 officials sidelined but is also one of the special group of seven 5-Star officials on a contract worth between 40,000 and 50,000 dollars plus expenses a year which has now been disbanded. Last night Gallagher was unavailable for comment.

Ballymena welterweight Donnelly, now hoping to secure a professional deal, said: "There needs to be a massive change so that corruption is not allowed to win. The decision against Mick Conlan was a disgrace and the same goes for the heavyweight final. Mick shouldn't even have been facing the Russian because Nikitin got a dodgy decision in the previous round when he was clearly beaten by the guy from Thailand.

"It says everything about AIBA that the people they nominated to judge and referee in Rio are the ones they have decided to stand down.

"There's a lot of clowns running around America at the moment and there seems to be some in AIBA as well. The hypocrisy is there for everyone to see.

"They have a go at me for putting one bet on nine fighters and then they have to stand down all their officials and have an investigation. I didn't even remember about the £5 bet until after my last contest when they came up to me about it.

"For the sake of the sport I really hope they can have some real change, that they can clean it up, but I'm not convinced."

In a statement, AIBA said: "While the majority of the boxing competition in Rio 2016 was received very positively... a small number of decisions under debate indicated that further reforms in the AIBA R&J (referee and judging) procedures were necessary.

"Initial decisions were made on-site during Rio 2016 to ensure the smooth running of the rest of the competition. The results of a specific R&J investigation, currently under way, will allow AIBA to fully assess what action needs to be taken.

"In the meantime, it has been decided that all 36 R&Js that were used at the Olympic Games will not officiate at any AIBA event until the investigation reaches its conclusion, along with further immediate measures adopted by the commissions."

AIBA's Referees & Judges and Technical & Rules commissions had met in Lausanne, Switzerland to discuss reforms and a 'road map' for the next Olympic cycle leading to the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Meanwhile, Donnelly says he is hoping to secure a professional deal very shortly. "The first offer I got was a bit of an insult but I have one at the moment that could work out," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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