Oympics boxing: Azeri official rejects cheating claims

By Elchin SuleymanovBBC Azeri

An Azerbaijan official has ruled out improper conduct during an Olympic boxing fight between Japan's Satoshi Shimizu and Azerbaijan's Magomed Abdulhamidov on Thursday.

Abdulhamidov was declared the winner of the bantamweight bout, even though he was floored six times in round three.

The International Boxing Association overturned the result and expelled Turkmen referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov.

"The referee should have counted at least three times," the AIBA said.

And its statement added that the referee should have stopped the contest.

An Azeri official, Aghajan Abiyev, was also sent home for breaking rules that forbid communicating with his country's team, according to an AIBA document seen by Reuters news agency.

Speaking to the BBC, Abiyev said he had done nothing wrong and discounted claims that the Turkmen referee could have had improper motives.

"For someone to give him money, that is so primitive," Abiyev said, suggesting bribery would be impossible when the whole world was watching.

"It was simply a mistake by the referee."

Abiyev said it was important to send only experienced referees to competitions like the Olympic Games.

Turkmen sports officials could not be reached for comment and the Turkmen embassy in London said it had been unaware of the case.

Turkmenistan has long been one of the most isolated countries in the world and is judged by observers as one of the most authoritarian.

A prominent Turkmen writer in exile, Ak Welsapar told the BBC that his countryman's performance could well be down to a system in which all aspects of life are highly controlled.

"It might be not a case of corruption," Welsapar said.

"But in Turkmenistan everything is pre-fixed - in sport, in politics, in social life, and it is probably this 'modus vivandi' that even influences the way Turkmen officials referee sporting competitions.

"It's a shameful case but it shows in full glory how athletes and sport officials are educated in contemporary Turkmenistan."