LONDON (Reuters) – Organizers of a suspended Olympic boxing qualifying tournament in London hit back at accusations of irresponsibility on Thursday as the number of competitors and coaches testing positive for coronavirus grew to six.
The Croatian federation said three team members had contracted the disease, a day after Turkey reported positives for two boxers and a coach.
The event at the Copper Box, featuring hundreds of male and female fighters from Europe 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 organized the event after last year’s suspension of world boxing body AIBA, wished those concerned a speedy recovery but questioned the link.
“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 organized 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.
Croatia’s N1 television said heavyweight Toni Filipi, beaten by Ukrainian Serhii Horskov on March 15, and coach Tomo Kadic had tested positive.
“The IOC should have known that they ought to have scrapped the qualifiers,” said Kadic.
The BBC quoted Croatian federation secretary-general Marko Marovic as saying the third person was also a coach. “Our epidemiologist says they were most probably infected during (the) Tokyo 2020 qualifier,” he added.
Turkish Federation president Eyup Gozgec said 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.
A spokesman for local organizers said the medical team had been in daily contact with Public Health England throughout the tournament with regular guidance provided to all teams and daily temperature tests for competitors.
Spectators were barred on the final Monday.
“Teams were advised on the steps they should take if any members of their delegation showed symptoms of the virus,” the spokesman 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 and Gozgec both sit on AIBA’s 28 member executive committee.
The IOC suspended AIBA over issues surrounding its finances and governance.
Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic, editing by Christian Radnedge