The Guardian August 9, 2000


Malicious attempts to exclude Cuban boxing

by Miguel Hernandez Granma daily staff writer

In the light of recent events, it would appear that there is a section 
within the leadership of the International Amateur Boxing Association 
(IABA) that is interested in preventing Cuban boxers from participating in 
the forthcoming Sydney Olympics.

Our country considers it a duty to convey, to the world Olympic movement 
and its leadership, its concerns about a possible conspiracy.

The IABA has, over the last five years, maintained a certain "flexibility" 
in the face of obvious facts within amateur boxing that violate Olympic 
ideals.

It has now mercilessly suspended Cuban members of the Association, such as 
Teolfils Stevenson and Alcides Sagarra, who have contributed so much to 
writing the modern history of this age-old sport.

Our boxers also feel punished by the unjust mistreatment meted out to their 
officials. We have absolutely nothing to reproach ourselves for.

Today, because of what we represent, because of our world standing and 
because of our morals, we have every right to demand an investigation into 
the root causes of a series on anomalies in matches and conventions.

An attempted chronology published not long ago in a European magazine 
pointed out that in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, US boxers won nine of 
the available 12 gold medals in a tournament that didn't include the 
socialist bloc countries and amid a wave of protest from the rest of the 
competitors.

None of the complaints were upheld by the President of the Complaints 
Commission. His name? Anwar Chowdhry, who at that time was also General 
Secretary of the IABA.

At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where neutrality was again called into 
question, the President of the Asian Federation was the same man, Chowhdry.

He ignored the fact that half of the appointed referees and judges didn't 
have the necessary qualifications.

Meanwhile, the South Koreans prepared the contest in a way that would allow 
them to take revenge for what had happened at Los Angeles.

They took advantage of the fact that the world giant of the sport, Cuba, 
was absent as an expression of solidarity with North Korea.

Referees who had been previously eliminated were readmitted to the 
competition. Chowdhry was the person in charge of the lists. Most judges 
knew beforehand at which bouts they would officiate.

The scandals of Seoul were historic and as a result, boxing was on the 
verge of being discontinued as an Olympic sport.

According to accounts, nobody mentioned the name of the man in charge, who 
with his regulations allowed the contest to descend into farce.

At the 1993 World Championships in Tampere, when the Finnish hosts complied 
with the IABA directive to implement the system of publicly awarding points 
after each round, "the czar" prohibited the display of the points' totals 
on the monitors.

At the 1994 World Cup in Bangkok, it was almost miraculous how, in the 
eliminatory bouts, the majority of Cubans were matched against Germans, and 
it later became know that the Germans would be the beneficiaries when there 
was a small margin of difference.

Sport International magazine has alleged that Chowdhry had arranged 
that local boxers would triumph in the tournament after the Germans had 
eliminated the Cubans.

This caused predictable anger among the Cuban delegation and earned a two-
year suspension for their federation representative Jose Barrientos.

However, things didn't go according to plan and there wasn't a single 
victory for Thailand in the finals. They say that afterwards the new IABA 
President declared that he had lost a lot of money as a result.

Another scandal occurred in 1992, despite attempts at a cover-up. It was 
the attempted bribe of a British judge by a Russian colleague during the 
World Junior Championships in Havana.

Chowdhry passed the case on to the European Association, even though, as 
the incident took place during a world championship, it was actually within 
the jurisdiction of the IABA.

The British appealed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) 
Arbitration Committee; it seems they had no confidence in their continental 
organisation, and eventually some relatively light sanctions were imposed 
against the Russian Federation.

At the 1997 World Cup in Budapest, the verdict given against Cuba's Felix 
Savon in his final against Uzbekistan's Russian Chagaev, meant that all 
eyes once again turned towards the President's ringside seat.

The Cuban fighter had been destabilised by the last minute replacement of a 
Russian judge by a Turk and witnesses overheard Chowdhry comment that the 
time had arrived for Savon to retire.

After revelations in a US boxing magazine that Chagaev had earlier been 
involved in two professional bouts, Chowdhry reluctantly convened the Legal 
Commission which at that time was headed by a Briton named Connor.

Chagaev was disqualified and the gold medal was awarded to Savon, but the 
original controversial decision was not reversed.

And then came Houston in 1999. Who has been the real promoter of disorder?

Once again a provocation of the Cubans was orchestrated, with the theft of 
well-deserved triumphs by six of their fighters. This caused justified and 
angry protests and, when it became evident that these would not be heeded 
by the IABA, the eventual withdrawal of the entire Cuban delegation.

With a crisis looming, why did the IABA leadership not accept the Cuban 
proposal to delay Savon's fight until the next day so that video evidence 
of the bout between Sierra and the Russian Timour Gaidalov could be 
examined?

They did eventually overturn the verdict in that fight and awarded it to 
the Cuban, but many people are left asking themselves this question.

Chowdhry continued his now famous manner of allowing unacceptable things to 
happen.

The only difference with Bangkok five years earlier was that this time his 
arrangements seemed to have been made with the United States.

Despite the thefts and the no-shows of two of its boxers in their scheduled 
finals, Cuba departed from Houston with 37 points, the same amount obtained 
by the United States.

The Americans were also "gold medallists" in organising a disastrous World 
Championship tournament that was full of irregularities; in the weigh-ins, 
in the medical control, in the draw, in the transport, in the food and in 
the information systems.

We only need to hear now that it was the best World Championships in 
history!

In all the time that has passed since the end of that competition, there 
has been absolutely no reply to the Cuban claims which are backed up by 
solid arguments.

In contrast, Chowdhry and others have dedicated themselves to a persuasion 
campaign seeking to win over support for their decision to punish Cuba.

This process culminated at the beginning of May with the shady deal in 
Mexico City in which the IABA imposed exaggerated sanctions. 

There was hardly any mention in the famous hearing of the charges made by 
our country against a group of corrupt judges who have continuously ill-
treated our boxers, and against individuals dedicated to scouting 
professional talent who are annoyed by the perennial success of Cuban 
boxers, or what that expresses about this country's sports policy, or upset 
because they haven't been able to buy up its stars.

Not even by way of "mitigation" did they mention in Mexico that there is no 
other country in the entire world that has done more for boxing than Cuba.

Despite the fact that the island has a population of only 11 million, is 
poor and subjected to a blockade, Cuba has won 23 Olympic boxing gold 
medals in the past 27 years.

It has acted in the role of advisor to the IABA for the improvement of 
trainers and referees.

It has some 300 instructors working in more than 50 countries across the 
five continents who have helped other country's boxers to go on to win 
Olympic or world championship medals.

Those present in the Kristal Hotel didn't raise the vicissitudes of the 
IABA in this Olympic cycle; how they've approved then disapproved the 
number of rounds to be included; how they've accepted boxers that have 
taken part in professional fights; how they've approved judges and referees 
with doubtful records; and how Cuban suggestions about preserving the 
purity of the discipline in the midst of a sporting map that is 
increasingly marked by "Europeanisation" have been either rejected or 
ignored.

In Mexico City, the gentlemen of the IABA were reduced to simply sustaining 
their sentence against our team officials for having committed the 
unpardonable profanity of having used the terms "mafiosi" and "corrupt" in 
a global sense.

They were thus placed at the same level as the four judges suspended after 
Ricardo Contreras, President of the IABA Legal Commission, imposed his will 
on the minds of the executive members.

Our country cannot accept these sanctions as superficial and 
inconsequential. At no time were the descriptions used in a general sense, 
especially when it is well known that there are honourable people on the 
executive board.

In that context, Chowdhry showed his weakness by admitting the existence of 
Mafia influence, and saying that he hadn't found sufficient support within 
the IABA to implement measures to deter these "dangerous friendships". 
However, there was unanimity for condemning Cuba.

We are totally certain that the condemnation of our position has nothing 
whatsoever to do with the feelings of athletes and sports lovers in the 
countries that have our current and ongoing cooperation.

The thousands of boxers throughout the world should be asked about the 
IABA, its internal structure and the question of sanctions imposed against 
Cuba.

Cuba is issuing a warning about the recent and insolent threats made by the 
IABA General Secretary Baker of the United States about attempts to prevent 
Cuban participation in the Olympics.

Cuba has received signals, in the few preparatory tournaments in which it 
has been able to participate prior to the Olympics, that the adverse 
decisions may well continue in Sydney, with judges looking especially for 
Cuban infractions related to punching.

Cuba longs for the Olympic movement to breathe a process of reform and 
democratisation into the IABA, in the same way that cleanliness and 
transparency with the IOC was achieved, but this process could not be led 
by Anwar Chowdhry.

Today, with all of the chaos in the boxing world and only weeks before the 
Olympics begin, Cuba would be very happy if IOC President Juan Antonio 
Samaranch would take note of our worries in the midst of this storm that 
has been whipped up by the IABA.

Cuba remains confident that, with reason, it will win its battles.

Back to index page