International Wrestling

Will UWW’s Lack of Transparency Hurt Wrestling?


United World Wrestling (UWW) announced this week the official punishment for the Mongolian federation stemming from the incident at the Olympic Games where two Mongolian coaches stripped down in protest after a controversial call. The final word is the two coaches involved are suspended for three years, the federation is fined 50k Francs and Mongolian wrestlers are cleared to compete going forward.

This ends a saga that saw Mongolia miss the Junior and Cadet world championships under an indefinite suspension while UWW decided what to punishment to impose. Of course, had it not been for a tweet from the Mongolian federation president, we would only have been able to guess that was the case. UWW never put out a statement nor did they answer my inquiry as to whether Mongolia had been banned and how long such a ban might last. This is not uncommon. Many organizations will not comment on a matter while an investigation is ongoing, though I wasn’t even told that much in this case. Some organizations, such as the PGA Tour, never disclose punishment, leaving everyone twisting in the wind trying to understand the what, never mind the why.

When Junior worlds came along, there were Mongolian wrestlers listed in the initial list of entrants I received. However, those wrestlers were gone by the time the brackets came out. At that point it was clear that Mongolia had been banned, but we still had no way to know how long the ban would be. When Cadet worlds came and went without Mongolian wrestlers, or any word about a decision, speculation continued to go unchecked. When a Russian coach stormed the mat at that competition and struck an official, it only intensified the scrutiny on what was happening to Mongolia.

The biggest problem here, as is often the case, is a lack of communication. When some highly questionable officiating occurred on the same day the Mongolian coaches protested at the Olympics, a statement was issued announcing the suspension of referees pending further investigation. How hard would it have been to issue a similar statement, if not that day, then certainly after the Mongolian federation had been informed of the suspension? Instead, speculation was allowed to run rampant, with no one knowing when, or if, we’d receive more information.

This is, of course, UWW’s right. They are not required to inform the world of their process during an investigation or any punishments they mete out. However, when the full story is unavailable, speculation, both as to the facts and the intentions behind those facts, will run wild, as it did in this case. The speculation as to whether Russia will be punished for their latest transgression continues as well.

Perhaps this is how UWW wants it. Perhaps they are hoping that the general wrestling public will see that they didn’t comment on the Mongolia situation until a decision was made and assume that Russia is being similarly investigated. If that is the case, it is a horribly naive approach as most assume they will never punish Russia and social media outcry continues. Perhaps they are hoping that, if they wait long enough, people will simply forget and move on. This is a strategy with a good chance of success, though it is offensive to those paying attention. Remember that those officials that were kicked out of the Olympics on the last day are also still under investigation.

Too often with UWW, and with just about any large organization involved in international sports, we simply have no way of knowing what will happen. The lack of transparency isn’t surprising, but it is frustrating. It feeds the narrative that UWW is corrupt and makes them nearly impossible to defend. When you have long time supporters of international wrestling throwing their hands up and walking away, you’ve got to wonder how long the rising interest numbers touted by UWW, largely spurred by the rise of online broadcasts, will continue.

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