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
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 sportsmanship”16, 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
- 17th Asian Games Incheon 2014, incheon2014ag.org, https://www.incheon2014ag.org/index
- M Vasavda, ‘Civil Disobedience: L Savita Devi refuses her boxing bronze medal at Asian Games 2014’, Indian Express, October 2, 2014, https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/sport-others/civil-disobedience/
- J Linden, ‘Sarita Devi given ‘strong warning’ after medal protest’, Reuters, October 4, 2014, https://in.reuters.com/article/2014/10/04/asian-games-sarita-bronze-protest-idINKCN0HT05V20141004
- ‘AIBA Technical Rules’, AIBA, August 30, 2014, viewed October 4, 2014, https://www.aiba.org/documents/common/AIBA%20Technical%20Rules%20-%20August%2031,%202014.pdf, pg. 15.
- Ibid at 2
- Olympic Council of Asia, ocasia.org, https://www.ocasia.org
- International Boxing Association, aiba.org, https://www.aiba.org
- P Rutherford, “Boxer Sarita Devi showed lack of sportsmanship, say organisers’, Reuters, October 2, 2014, https://in.reuters.com/article/2014/10/02/games-asian-boxing-india-idINKCN0HR08H20141002
- ‘Olympic Council of Asia re-instates L Sarita Devi’s bronze medal’, Indian Express, October 2, 2014, https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/sport-others/olympic-council-of-asia-re-instates-l-sarita-devis-bronze-medal/
- Ibid at 3
- ‘Sarita Devi says ‘sorry’ but AIBA may slap harsh ban’, Indian Express, October 4, 2014, https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/sport-others/sarita-devi-says-sorry-but-aiba-may-slap-harsh-ban/
- Sports Authority of India, sportsauthorityofindia.nic, https://sportsauthorityofindia.nic.in
- ‘We have sought report from IOA on Sarita incident: Sports Minister’, IBN Live, October 1, 2014, https://ibnlive.in.com/news/we-have-sought-report-from-ioa-on-sarita-incident-sports-minister/503276-5-23.html
- M, O’Neill, ‘AIBA to proceed with investigation into Laishram Sarita Devi case’, WomenBoxing, October 10, 2014, https://www.womenboxing.com/NEWS2014/news101014investigation.htm
- AIBA Executive Committee, ‘AIBA Disciplinary Code’, AIBA, July 17, 2013, https://www.aiba.org/documents/site1/docs/Disciplinary%20Code/AIBA%20Disciplinary%20Code%20-%20Adopted%20July%2018,%202013.pdf, pg 5-6.
- N Butler, ‘OCA must resolve Asian Games boxing judging problems, claims Philippine Olympic Committee President’, insidethegames, October 5, 2014, https://www.insidethegames.biz/sports/summer/boxing/1023184-oca-must-take-steps-to-resolve-boxing-judging-problems-at-asian-games-claims-leading-filipino-official
- The Philippine Olympic Committee, olympic.ph, https://www.olympic.ph
- Ibid at 18