Two officials have been thrown out of the Aiba World Amateur Boxing Championships in Belgrade after being flagged as suspicious by a groundbreaking automated phone questionnaire which asked them: “Have you ever cheated in a boxing event?”
Prof Richard McLaren said the technology, which is used by law enforcement agencies, had given each of the 50 referees and judges, plus 20 international technical officials, a risk score ranging from low to high.
McLaren, whose review into match-fixing at the Rio 2016 Olympics continues, added that the voice detection software was part of a new screening process intended to make the sport less corrupt. Those identified as particularly suspicious were subject to interviews and further vetting procedures.
“It is a big, huge historic step forward in eliminating bout manipulation,” said McLaren, who revealed that two officials had been removed before the tournament because of the technology and another two during it after further analysis and interviews.
“The investigators and analysts utilise the voice analytical tool to help screen officials,” he said. “It measures the cognitive functions of the brain in the verbal responses and – given pertinent questions – finds whether that person is low risk, medium risk, high risk in terms of being an official at the championships.”
McLaren said the tool could also be a blueprint for other judging sports: “I think the technology has incredible potential. It has to be combined with other work in order to make it effective, but it clearly identifies problems and protects the officiating core.”
The technology was welcomed by Roy Jones Jr, who was cheated out of a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics by a judging scandal. “It would have been very beautiful to have this technology in that time,” he said. “However, it’s better late than never. And hopefully no other Olympic – or any other international athlete in boxing – will have to go through the same things that I went through.”