IOC Boxing Task Force defends London event after virus strikes

Fulya OZERKAN
Turkey's boxing federation has criticised the organisers of an Olympic qualifying event in London after fighters tested positive for coronavirus

The International Olympic Committee's Boxing Task Force on Thursday questioned claims from Turkish officials that it facilitated the spread of coronavirus by allowing this month's qualifying tournament in London to go ahead.

Turkey's boxing federation criticised organisers of the event after three fighters and a coach tested positive for COVID-19.

The Boxing Road to Tokyo tournament, featuring competitors from across Europe, started on March 14 but was suspended after just three days.

The Olympics themselves have since been postponed.

Eyup Gozgec, president of the Turkish Boxing Federation, was scathing about the tournament in the British capital.

"The International Olympic Committee Boxing Task Force and the local committee in London, responsible for the organisation, acted as if nothing happened rather than postpone the tournament over coronavirus while every corner of the world has been on fire since December," he told AFP.

Gozgec, who is also vice-president of the European Boxing Confederation (EUBC), said his team went to London on March 11 to prepare for the tournament but found no protective measures in place at their hotel or elsewhere.

"There were no protective measures in the hotels we were staying, whether it be hygienic disinfectants, gloves or a warning sign," he said.

"All the coaches and athletes ate in self-service style from the same kitchen. There was neither a warning nor any other measure as if the virus had not visited there."

Gozgec added: "Some of our fighters are under quarantine in dormitories and some are in their homes. I am also on my ninth day of quarantine. I'm in good health."

EUBC president Franco Falcinelli had said he feared the risk of a boxer contracting the virus in London was "very high".

But the Boxing Task Force defended itself strongly.

"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, on 16 March 2020, 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."

A spokesman for the local organising committee said extensive measures had been taken to protect athletes and support teams.

These included "the provision of hand sanitisers throughout the competition spaces and the introduction of routine temperature tests".