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.