Olympic Boxing Referee Ejected for Comically One-Sided Rulings

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Turkmenistan's ref would not be the first official from his country accused of corruption.

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Turkmen ref Ishanguly Meretnyyazov declares Azerbaijan's boxer the winner in a since-overturned decision. (Reuters)

We are shocked, shocked that Turkmenistan finds itself embroiled in an international corruption scandal.

On August 2, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) announced that Turkmen referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov had been banished from the London Olympic Games after he presided over a bout in which Azerbaijani boxer Magomed Abdulhamidov was knocked down six - yes, that's not a typo - six times in one round, yet somehow managed to walk away with a decision on points.

Thankfully, justice was done, and the outcome of the bout was overturned on appeal, giving Japanese bantamweight Satoshi Shimizu the victory over Abdulhamidov. According to international amateur boxing rules, three knock-downs in one round should prompt the referee to stop the fight.

The one-sidedness of the refereeing in the bout is raising questions in boxing circles of whether money was involved. The British Broadcasting Corp. in late 2011 aired a report about a suspicious payment made by Azerbaijani officials. The payment could be construed as an apparent bribe attempt designed to promote the interests of Azerbaijani boxers at the Olympics.

Funnily enough, the same day it announced that Meretnyyazov had been sent home, the AIBA also said it had expelled an Azerbaijani technical official, Aghajan Abiyev. The association did not elaborate on the move.

That a Turkmen ref might be on the take would be in keeping with Turkmenistan's reputation as one of the most corrupt places on earth.

It's not surprising that Turkmen media outlets have ignored the incident. Readers might recall that earlier this year, state media went dark on coverage of the national under-21 football team when it finished last in a CIS tournament.

Regardless of the media omerta, it's easy to guess what President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's going to do: he'll probably round up the usual suspects.

This article originally appeared at EurasiaNet.org, an Atlantic partner site.

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Justin Burke is EurasiaNet.org's Managing Editor.

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