IOC strips Abrahamian's bronze medal for tantrum

Updated: August 16, 2008, 6:43 PM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- A Swedish wrestler was disqualified and stripped of his bronze medal Saturday for dropping the prize in protest after a disputed loss at the Beijing Olympics.

Ara Abrahamian was punished by the International Olympic Committee for violating the spirit of fair play during the medal ceremony, becoming the fourth athlete kicked out of the Games and bringing the number of medals removed to three.

Abrahamian became incensed when a disputed penalty call decided his semifinal match against Italian Andrea Minguzzi, who went on to win the gold medal in the Greco-Roman 84-kilogram division Thursday.

[+] Enlargebronze protest
Peter Parks/AFP/Getty ImagesSweden's Ara Abrahamian dumped his bronze medal in the middle of the wrestling mat during the medal ceremony.
During the medal ceremony, the Armenian-born Abrahamian, who was the silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Games, took the bronze from around his neck and, angrily, dropped it on the mat as he walked away. He did not take part in the rest of the medal ceremony.

The IOC executive board ruled Abrahamian's actions amounted to a political demonstration and a mark of disrespect to his fellow athletes.

"It was felt that his behavior on the medal podium and during the medal ceremony was not appropriate," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "His behavior was not in the Olympic spirit of respect for his fellow athletes. Whatever grievances you may have, this was not the way to go about it."

The IOC said no athlete will receive Abrahamian's medal because his disqualification was not connected to the competition itself, meaning there will be only one bronze medalist, Nazmi Avluca of Turkey. Normally, there are two at each weight class.

The 28-year-old Abrahamian had to be restrained from going after matside officials following his loss to Minguzzi. He stormed away from the area where interviews are conducted and slammed a door to the dressing rooms so hard it shook an entire wall. He weighed whether to skip the bronze medal match, only to have friends talk him into competing.

The IOC said Abrahamian violated two rules of the Olympic charter, one which bans any sort of demonstrations and another which demands respect for all Olympic athletes.

"The awards ceremony is a highly symbolic ritual, acknowledged as such by all athletes and other participants," the IOC said. "Any disruption by any athlete, in particular a medalist, is in itself an insult to the other athletes and to the Olympic Movement. It is also contrary to the spirit of fair play."

Abrahamian never expressed regret or offered an apology, the IOC said. The international wrestling federation was asked to consider any further sanctions against the two-time world champion.

His medal was the third stripped at the Beijing Games so far.

On Friday, North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su had his silver and bronze medals taken away after failing a doping test. Also expelled for doping violations have been Spanish cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno and Vietnamese gymnast Thi Ngan Thuong Do.

Abrahamian's case is not the first of its kind.

A weightlifter at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics was stripped of his bronze medal after rejecting it during the medal ceremony. Ibragim Samadov, competing in the light heavyweight category for the Unified Team of the former Soviet Union, was upset with his performance and refused to have the medal placed around his neck and only accepted it in his hand. He then put it down and walked off.

Samadov later apologized, but the IOC decision upheld its decision to disqualify him. He later was banned for life by the sport's governing body.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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