The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has tasked Western Law professor Richard McLaren to lead an investigation into abuse allegations against coaches in Mali’s women’s basketball program.
The move follows a Human Rights Watch investigation alleging sexual harassment and abuse of female basketball players in Mali, a country in West Africa.
“My mandate is to conduct an investigation to determine what the facts are in respect to these individuals, and what was known by the Mali basketball federation,” said McLaren, also serves as FIBA integrity officer and an adjunct research professor at Western Law.
On June 12, Human Rights Watch wrote to FIBA detailing sexual abuse reports by members of Mali’s under-18 girls’ national basketball team against the head coach dating back to 2016. Immediately following receipt of the letter, FIBA president Hamane Niang agreed to temporarily step aside as investigations get underway. There is currently no accusation of sexual abuse against Niang.
FIBA, the international governing body for basketball federations across the globe, has instituted a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse of athletes of any gender, McLaren said. “This is the first time that there’s been such serious allegations made against a member of FIBA, and the coaches that coach under a member of the federation’s auspices. They are taking all matter very seriously and acting quickly to try to put a stop to what’s going on and identify the people that need to be sanctioned under the rules.”
A report on the outcome of this investigation is expected by mid-August, after the Tokyo Olympics, said McLaren.
The law professor is also embarking on another high-profile sports investigation in connection with alleged irregularities in refereeing and officiating of boxing matches at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Commissioned by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), this investigation will be conducted in two phases, McLaren said. The first will determine the extent of corruption allegations during the Rio Olympics, and who was responsible. The second stage of the probe will look at corrupt practices involving previous administrations of the AIBA over the past decade.
“Boxing was created when rules were introduced to ensure fair fights. Any undermining of those rules is unacceptable. For some time, it has been clear that AIBA could do more in following up on allegations of unfairness. Unfortunately, in order to move to a brighter future, we must now also shine a light on AIBA’s past,” said AIBA president Umar Kremlev in a statement. “The best way to do this is to bring in independent experts to uncover any wrongdoing so that we can learn any lessons that need to be learned and restore confidence.”
McLaren expects to complete the first phase of the boxing investigation by the end of August.
The results of the investigation will become “part of a process that the boxing federation has to go through to turn the page and become a member recognized by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) again,” McLaren said.
AIBA has been marred with allegations of corrupt practices for decades. In 2019, the IOC suspended AIBA as the Olympic governing body for boxing. It will also not have any involvement in the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Olympics due to concerns over governance and corruption allegations.
McLaren said AIBA intends to “become an exemplary international federation.”
McLaren has become a prominent figure in international sports, taking on several high-profile investigations, including the 2020 corruption probe of the International Weightlifting Federation, steroids in Major League Baseball, drug testing cover-up by USA track & field, and widespread cheating by Russian athletes on the eve of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. He is currently a professor at Western Law, having taught courses in sports law, alternative dispute resolution, commercial law and business law. He is also a commercial litigator with London-based firm McKenzie Lake Lawyers LLP, and the CEO of consulting firm McLaren Global Sports Solutions.