Cuba 'robbed' of boxing gold
Cuba's President Fidel Castro denounced what he called "a disgusting mafia" among international boxing judges which he said had "robbed" some Cuban boxers of medals at the Sydney Olympics.
In a speech welcoming Cuban athletes who returned from Sydney on Friday, Castro questioned the surprise defeats of several Cuban boxers in the Olympic boxing tournament, where the communist-ruled island had hoped to sweep the medals.
Some of these defeats were genuine losses, the Cuban leader said, but he added, "The rest were robbed from us". His speech was widely reproduced by Cuban state media on Saturday.
Castro said international boxing had become increasingly corrupt, and he denounced what he said was an anti-Cuban bias among some Olympic judges aimed at toppling the Caribbean island state from its position as a world amateur boxing giant.
"Of course, they want to get even with us, they probably think they can neutralize us this way," he said.
"More than ever, we will carry on denouncing the disgusting mafia that prevails in boxing," he added.
The 74-year-old Cuban president, who is a keen sports fan, spoke after the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) Friday dismissed formal protests from Cuba against the defeat of two of its boxers in Olympic quarterfinals bouts.
The Cuban team said featherweight Yosvany Aguilera and light-middleweight Juan Hernandez Sierra lost their fights in Sydney Wednesday because judges "did not score properly".
Amateur boxing's ruling body said the Cuban protest was rejected because there was no evidence of serious irregularity.
Despite these setbacks, Cuba still finished Saturday as the top team in the Olympic boxing tournament with four golds won by heavyweight Felix Savon, bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux, lightweight Mario Kindelan and middleweight Jorge Gutierrez.
However, it remained one of the lowest Cuban Olympic boxing medal tallies in recent decades. The Cuban performance in Sydney matched the four golds they took home from Atlanta in 1996 but was well short of their 1992 high of seven golds and 1980 tally of 10 medals in all.
Castro and Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque singled out another Cuban defeat, that of light-welterweight Diogenes Luna, as evidence of alleged unfair judging in Sydney.
Luna lost 41-42 to American Ricardo Williams in a controversial bout which the Cuban corner thought he had won.
"Highway robbery was committed against Luna!" Castro said.
Perez, who joined him in welcoming the returning Cuban athletes, said decisions like this showed that a "real conspiracy" was being waged against some Cuban boxers.
Cuba's communist government and the island's state sports authorities have waged a noisy campaign against what they call corrupt practices and refereeing in world amateur boxing.
Cuba walked out of the 1999 world boxing championships in Houston in protest against alleged unfair judging, triggering a bitter row with world amateur boxing authorities that led to suspensions for leading Cuban coaches and representatives.
In spite of the mixed boxing results in Sydney, Cuba's overall medal tally Saturday rose to 11 golds, 10 silvers and five bronzes, already more than the 25 medals won by the island's athletes in the previous 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Like the athletes of the former Soviet bloc, Cuba's amateur athletes are selected, trained and supported by the state throughout their careers and constitute a privileged, sporting elite that is professional in all but name and income.
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