Indian boxer refuses bronze medal at Asian Games, OCA issues warning

By Manali Kulkarni

On October 1, 2014, Indian boxer, Sarita Devi, refused to accept her bronze medal in the 57-60 kg category at the 17th Asian Games Incheon 2014.1, 2 The controversy began after Devi lost her semi-final bout against Park Ji-Na. The judges ruled the fight three rounds to nil in favor of Ji-Na, but Devi claims she dominated the contest and should have won.

Devi protested the decision immediately after the result was declared,3 but the protest proved unsuccessful as, pursuant to Rule 5 of the AIBA Technical Rules (Protest), a boxer cannot appeal the judges’ decision:

No protest in AOB, APB and WSB Competitions is permitted and the decisions of the Referee & Judges in a Bout are Final.4

Unable to change the decision, Devi was reportedly distraught during the medal ceremony and would not allow officials to place the medal around her neck. After the ceremony, when Devi went to congratulate Ji-Na for the silver medal, Ji-Na bowed to show her respect in return, and Devi proceeded to place the bronze medal around Ji-Na’s neck.5

Officials of both the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA)6 and the International Boxing Association (AIBA)7 claimed that Devi’s actions were “against the values of sportsmanship.8

As of October 2, Devi has apologized for her behavior and OCA officials have reinstated Devi with the bronze medal.9  OCA has issued a “strong warning” and continues to argue that Devi did not show proper sportsmanship.10

Devi may, however, face an appropriate sanction from AIBA, based on the Disciplinary Commission’s ongoing decision.11 (see update below)

It should be noted that as of October 1, Sports Authority of India (SAI)12 has asked for a report from IOA on Devi’s incident.13 To follow up, India has also asked for a review of the bout between Devi and Ji-Na to be conducted by the OCA’s independent panel.14

AIBA to send Devi’s case to Disciplinary Commission

As reported on October 9, 2014, the AIBA Executive Committee voted to pursue Devi’s case and will not be excusing her actions because of her previously issued apology.15 AIBA will prepare and send the brief on Devi’s incident to the Disciplinary Commission for review. After which, the Disciplinary Commission will make a decision on how to proceed with Devi’s case.

AIBA plans to argue that Devi’s actions at the Asian Games were against the “spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship16, which serves as grounds for AIBA to impose a sanction on Devi, pursuant to Articles 3.1 and 3.2 of the AIBA Disciplinary Code, which state:

“3.1 All persons subject to this Disciplinary Code must:

… (f) respect the principles of honesty, integrity and sportsmanship; and

(g) act in accordance with the principle of fair-play.

3.2 Any failure to respect these general principles of conduct may be sanctioned by the Disciplinary Commission.”17

It seems that the AIBA rules were controversially received at the Asian Games,  as reflected by various National Olympic Committees’ (NOCs') reactions to the judges' decisions for boxing.

The  Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is currently facing multiple allegations of preferential treatment at the Asian Games from other NOCs, specifically India, Mongolia, and the Philippines, stating that the boxing judges at the Asian Games were biased towards South Korean boxers.18

Along with the Indian boxer’s incident, the Philippines Olympic Committee (POC)19 have written to the OCA’s organizing committee complaining about two unfair decisions by judges against Filipino boxers, resulting in favor of South Korean boxers.20




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About the Author

Manali Kulkarni

Manali Kulkarni

Manali is currently a second year (2L) JD Candidate at the University of Maine School of Law. She was previously the COO at LawInSport and continues to be an executive contributor of the editorial board for LawInSport. She holds an LLM in Sports Law from Nottingham Law School (Nottingham Trent University). During the fall of her second year in Portland, Maine, Manali also had the opportunity to be the legal intern at Global Sports Advocates.

Manali previously researched on sports and society in India, specifically focusing on the influence of sport on the gender divide in India. She joined LawInSport in September 2013 as a research assistant providing updates on Indian sports law. She is currently back in her hometown, Memphis, Tennessee, for a visiting semester at the University of Memphis School of Law.

Get in touch with Manali on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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