Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, acknowledged Monday that boxing is facing a standing eight-count as an Olympic sport and may not be allowed to continue.
He said that the IOC’s executive committee, which will review the sport’s status at its December meeting in Vienna, has concerns about the danger that athletes encounter as well as questionable officiating.
Samaranch made his comments during a news conference on the morning after the closing ceremony of the Seoul Olympics and about 24 hours after a South Korean boxer, Park Si Hun, was awarded a controversial decision over American Roy Jones of Pensacola, Fla. in the final of the 156-pound weight class.
The IOC president said earlier this year in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. that he believed boxing eventually would be eliminated from the Olympics, although he added that he did not expect it to occur during his tenure. He is expected to continue as president through the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.
“Many people think that boxing is very dangerous for the health of boxers, not only in the fights but in training,” Samaranch said Monday.
He said that the IOC Medical Commission has authorized studies in West Germany and Italy to determine the physical effects of the sport on amateur athletes.
“We also are not happy with the ways sometimes that judges and referees are acting,” Samaranch said. “We consider these two problems very serious.”
An IOC vice president, Richard Pound of Montreal, said after the news conference that the decision against Jones was the worst he had ever seen in boxing.
“That was a disgusting, revolting decision,” he said. “One man hits the other 82 times and is hit only 32 times in return, and he is the loser.”
Pound said that the international boxing federation (AIBA) should reinstitute the system it used at the 1984 Summer Olympics, in which a jury of appeals could overrule the judges’ decision. Decisions by the judges in Seoul were not subject to appeal.
Anwhar Chowdhry, AIBA president, also called the decision against Jones unfair. But he said that the jury of appeals also was controversial because its decisions often were as politically motivated as the judges’.
Chowdhry said that AIBA hopes to reduce the number of disputes at the 1989 World Championships in Moscow with an electronic scoring system that will enable the boxers and the crowd to follow the points awarded by the judges on a scoreboard as the bouts progress.
One other sport that might be in jeopardy is weightlifting. Of the 10 athletes who tested positive for the use of banned substances in Seoul, five were weightlifters. That included three medalists.
Pound said that he will ask the IOC Executive Committee in December to consider dropping the sport from the Olympics.
“I want to send a message to the weightlifting federation,” Pound said. “I want to say, ‘You guys, your act really is so bad that it’s embarrassing. So you have to clean it up.’ ”
But Prince Alexander de Merode of Belgium, chairman of the IOC Medical Commission, said that he believes weightlifting officials are acting on the problem.
“I think we must work together and support their efforts,” he said. “We must help them rather than destroy them.”
In response to a question, Merode said that he does not believe the Seoul Olympics will be remembered as the Doping Games.
“That’s sensationalism,” he said, pointing out that the Los Angeles Games had 11 positive drug cases even though there were fewer athletes than participated in Seoul.
“We had less than 1% of the athletes testing positive,” he said. “If there had been 5% or 6%, these would be Doping Games.”
Samaranch said that he believes the drug cases, particularly that of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, will be the only lingering negative aspect associated with the Seoul Games.
“That was indeed a blow, but the IOC showed the sports world that we are the leaders in the Olympic movement (in combatting drugs),” Samaranch said. “This is the example that no athlete will receive special treatment.”
At the same time, Samaranch said that he doesn’t believe that Johnson acted alone in using anabolic steroids.
“I know Ben Johnson,” he said. “He is a great champion. In many, many cases, the athlete is the least to blame. He is not the only culprit. Perhaps it was the people around him who recommended that he take the drug.”
Otherwise, Samaranch said that he believes the Seoul Games will be recognized as the best ever.
He acknowledged that he said the same thing four years ago in Los Angeles but said that the Seoul Games were more representative of the Olympic movement because of the record number of countries, 160, that participated.
Park Seh Jik, president of the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee, said that the committee expects a surplus of $349 million over its $815.8 million budget. That does not include the $2.3 billion spent by the government and private enterprises toward the Games.