By Alan Baldwin
LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) – Organisers of a suspended Olympic boxing qualifying tournament in London hit back at accusations of irresponsibility on Thursday after two Turkish competitors and a coach tested positive for coronavirus on returning home.
The event at the Copper Box arena, featuring men and women from 43 countries seeking places at the now-postponed Tokyo 2020 Games, was halted on March 16 after three days.
The International Olympic Committee’s Boxing Task Force (BTF), who organised the event after last year’s suspension of world boxing body AIBA, wished those concerned a speedy recovery.
“Some news reports appeared to draw a connection between the affected participants and the Boxing Road to Tokyo European qualifier held in London,” it said in a statement.
“The London event was suspended 10 days ago… and the BTF is not aware of any link between the competition and the infection.
“Many participants were in independently organised training camps in Italy, Great Britain and in their home countries before the competition started on 14 March 2020 and have returned home a while ago so it is not possible to know the source of infection.”
The Turkish Boxing Federation named one of its boxers as middleweight Serhat Guler, who had a bye before beating Israeli Mikhail Ostroumov on March 16.
Federation president Eyup Gozgec said on Wednesday the situation was “the disastrous result of the irresponsibility of the IOC task force”.
“This virus has been around since December 2019. Therefore, it is inevitable to ask why the European Qualification event was not postponed before it even took place,” he wrote in a letter to board members of the European Boxing Confederation.
The BTF said many other sports and public events were going on in Britain at the time because the government had not imposed restrictions.
It said precautionary measures were taken before, during and after the event, with the well-being of athletes the top priority.
A spokesman for local organisers said the medical team had been in daily contact with Public Health England throughout the tournament with regular guidance provided to all teams.
Hand sanitizers had been provided throughout the competition spaces, with spectators barred on the final Monday and daily temperature tests for competitors.
“Teams were advised on the steps they should take if any members of their delegation showed symptoms of the virus,” he added.
“During the competition there were no recorded instances of teams contacting the medical team to report symptoms.”
Gozgec’s criticism of the ‘horrible event’ followed remarks from Umar Kremlev, president of Russia’s Boxing Federation, who had said it was ‘ridiculous’ the tournament had ever started.
Kremlev is a senior official of the International Boxing Association, and chairman of its market commission, while Gozgec also sits on AIBA’s 28 member executive committee.
The IOC suspended AIBA over issues surrounding its finances and governance. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)