Boxing chief slams ‘politically driven’ NOC’s practice of ‘vote-buying’ | Sunday Observer

Boxing chief slams ‘politically driven’ NOC’s practice of ‘vote-buying’

18 July, 2021
Dian Gomes: Rejected at home but recognised as a deputy in the world boxing set-up
Dian Gomes: Rejected at home but recognised as a deputy in the world boxing set-up

‘Dian Gomes could not be bought for a ticket or any other perk, to vote for any of these people and your readers can judge my credibility at both Corporate and sports levels’:

Sri Lanka’s boxing chief Dian Gomes slammed the National Olympic Committee (NOC) where he is persona non-grata as being “politically driven” and indulging in unethical “vote-buying” practices which he said are against the norms of proper financial governance.

He also debunked the notion that boxing depends on ‘wildcards’ or Tripartite Invitation places to participate in the Olympics, accusing the NOC of giving step motherly treatment to national sports associations like boxing which are being unfairly penalised for being in the opposing camp.

Although Gomes complimented the NOC for downsizing the number of officials going for the Tokyo Olympics unlike for Games in the past, the Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) president vowed to continue his battle to expose questionable elements and practices in the country’s apex sporting authority of which he had been part of for eight years while serving as vice president till 2012.

“For the last 15 years I would say they (NOC) have not been supportive (of boxing) at all. I have always been on the opposing side when it comes to contests. Also, I have been very critical of the financial governance of the National Olympic Committee even during the time I was vice president. Obviously, I have been critical of things which I felt the governance was not right and on the things that more than the athletes, the officials went on a lot of trips,” said Gomes, a past president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK), Sri Lanka Division.

“At the last Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics, there were more officials seen officially and unofficially at all these Games. Majority of them were not needed for that. Those finances could have been allocated to the athletes. For example, sending the right doctors, right masseurs, right support staff. I always felt it was more politically driven to get votes at the elections,” he said.

“I think this is one of the better times that I see much fewer numbers of officials for this Olympic Games which is a very positive thing. If people are doing positive things, we don’t want to be critical but this is one of the few times I would say that Suresh Subramaniam (NOC president) has acted most rationally to restrict the number of officials going. I heard from the (sports) Ministry as well, there are no Ministry officials. I think it is a much more robust team,” said Gomes of Sri Lanka’s contingent to Tokyo which officially comprises nine athletes and 17 officials.

He scoffed at NOC secretary general Maxwell de Silva’s statement that they had also applied for wildcards for boxing for the Olympics. “NOC has never applied for Tripartite places (for boxing). We have never been informed of that and I don’t think he (Maxwell) needs to do it behind our backs to obtain (wildcards). The chances of getting wildcards for boxing is virtually impossible because they consider Sri Lankans to be of international standard. We need to qualify for the proper trials now. Specially after winning three medals at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Asian Championship, it is very unlikely that they would even consider us to be in the wildcard range,” said Gomes who achieved mission impossible in 2008 when Anuruddha Ratnayake represented Sri Lanka in boxing at the Beijing Olympics after 40 years.

“There is a criteria for wildcards for each sport by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) plus the relevant (international) federation. If you compete in certain tournaments there are chances that in certain sports, they will get a wildcard. The most important thing is to go to the Olympics. I think it is a great prestige and great effort because even the people who get selected by wildcards are fairly robust and competent athletes. We need to understand that,” he explained.

Nonetheless, it is common knowledge that the NOC is partial to some sports bodies and will go out of their way to get them on board.

“Frankly I expected much more from my fellow Royalist Suresh Subramaniam but unfortunately it’s like anything else. Politics plays the majority, meritocracy and governance comes second. I think it’s always a difficult task for the NOC because there are people who have entrenched there, looking at NOC positions as a means of furthering themselves financially. You know people with a lot of vested interests. And if you were to give the count of people on their overseas trips, they tend to act like they are not reporting to the NSC or they have their own set of rules or they don’t adhere to our Constitution, the Sports Act of 1973, etc. They tend to think they are beyond all those things,” Gomes said.

“I think the Minister and Ministry has reminded them that since the government is also spending a lot of money on their behalf, they have to adhere to accounting governance. We have always been looking at that and one of the grievances always goes back to the audit report which has so many lapses highlighted over the past years,” he pointed out.

The BASL chief has been barred from representing boxing at Council meetings of the NOC ostensibly for violating their Constitution by accrediting himself as a ‘coach’ during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

“They think I went to the Commonwealth Games as a coach which I didn’t. Only thing is the letter from boxing had said since there was no accreditation category under cornerman, it had been entered as a coach. Then it was corrected. I went to the Games all by myself paying for my ticket, paying for my accommodation. As a team official, it allowed me to get into the ringside as a cornerman to motivate my team which I have been doing for 20 years. They held that letter and without having any inquiry they said ‘no you have been considered a coach’,” he explained.

He argued that if he was a coach, he could not be the president of the BASL and represent Sri Lanka in international bodies.

“If I had been a coach, I could never be the president of Sri Lankan boxing because that disqualifies me from holding that position. If I am a coach, although I am certified as a coach by the AIBA but have never coached any school or club or the national team for the last 20 years, I can’t be the president of Sri Lanka Boxing according to our Sports Law. Also, I can’t hold any position in both the Asian Executive Committee and the world body AIBA, if I am an RJ (referee/judge) or coach. It clearly shows that internationally I have been recognised not as a coach but as an administrator,” said Gomes.

“The most important thing is they (NOC) have never called me for an inquiry. They have never called me to explain although I self-explained through a number of letters. But I’ve decided I don’t need to be there to carry on with my boxing.”

Asked whether Dian Gomes and boxing was being penalised by the NOC because of this personality clash, he said: “Of course, they know Dian Gomes could not be bought for a ticket or any other perk (perquisites), to vote for any of these people who I feel should not be there.

I think people have also realised it but some people can be swayed by various perks but I don’t have to bend to any of those perks or anything. I will speak out what is right for boxing, what is right for Sri Lankan sports. I have been recognised not only here, I am in the world body as deputy chairman of the marketing commission. The world body recognises this man is worthy to sit in an international body, but our NOC thinks that Dian Gomes should not be in any of the NOC committees. So it is a question mark for your readers to judge the credibility of Dian Gomes both on a corporate level and in a sports level what he has done for the country.”

On why he remains in the opposing camp, Gomes replied: “It is my choice. When people want to contest an election, it should be like blue and red (in boxing). Two parties take part, one party will win and after that you shake hands and you move on. But in this situation for example when I contested as a vice president under Rohan (Fernando) and earlier under Dilan (Perera), I had got votes even from my opposing side. That shows there are still people who think of meritocracy but there are people who are swayed by other stuff. That is the reality of Sri Lankan sport like anything else.”