At 76, Richard McLaren does not yet know the meaning of the word retirement. The Canadian lawyer (pictured above), a former law professor in Ontario, has taken on one mission after another in a convincing manner. After bringing to light state doping in Russian sport, then revealing a culture of corruption at the International Weightlifting Federation, he is now looking at the boxing case. A case. A real one.
At the request of AIBA, Richard McLaren and his company, McLaren Global Sport Solutions, will investigate suspicions of mismanagement and corruption in amateur boxing. At the top of the pile is the Rio 2016 Olympic tournament, where manipulation and bad decisions by referees are said to have been rife.
“Boxing has a long history of questionable activities,” explained Richard McLaren on Monday, June 14th, in a statement announcing his mission for AIBA. “There have been multiple investigations into the sport in the past that have not been completed or acted upon. It is time for boxing to turn the page. But it cannot do so without a full accounting of any alleged wrongdoing. Our team will conduct an independent investigation into the issues surrounding corruption or manipulation of sporting results during the Rio Olympics, identify those responsible and recommend the appropriate course of action.”
A big agenda. But it takes more than that to repel the Canadian lawyer. Asked to dig into the underbelly of Russian sport after the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Richard McLaren produced a report in 2016 bearing his name, which has since become legendary. His conclusions led the World Anti-Doping Agency to request, and obtain, Russia’s exclusion from the Olympic movement.
For AIBA, he will have to look into the actions of the body’s former leaders, in place at the time of the Rio 2016 Games. At the head of the pack is the former president, Taiwanese CK Wu, who was pushed out in 2017.
Richard McLaren has made no secret of the fact that his team will try to shed light on cases of corruption within the body itself, but also among the refereeing body, which was singled out during the last Olympic tournament.
A first report is expected this year, probably before the end of August 2021.
For AIBA, the choice of the Canadian jurist does not only respond to a desire to have a clear-out. Above all, the international body, chaired for six months by Russian Umar Kremlev, wants to prepare for the future.
By calling on the most media-savvy investigator in international sport, whose independence has never been questioned, AIBA is indirectly addressing the IOC. Its message is clear: let’s make a clean break with the past, build a more stable future and be transparent. With one fixed idea: to regain its place in the Olympic movement before the 2024 Paris Games.
Under the leadership of Umar Kremlev, AIBA has already bailed out. It has paid off its $10 million debt to a company in Azerbaijan. It has found new partners. But the hardest part is still to come: convincing the IOC to lift its suspension, pronounced by the Olympic body at the Lausanne session in June 2019.
An explosive report by Richard McLaren on corruption and mismanagement would further damage AIBA’s image. But it could not harm it. It would undoubtedly accuse some of the leaders, but all of them have now been removed. Above all, it would allow the team in place to behave as guarantors of integrity and good practice.