Canadian boxer Bujold wins appeal to compete at Tokyo Games

TORONTO — Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold looks forward to the day when she can tell her daughter that she got in the Olympic ring with sport’s highest court — and won.

The 11-time national flyweight champion has won her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, allowing her to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. The CAS ruled Wednesday that the International Olympic Committee’s boxing task force must include an accommodation for women who were pregnant or postpartum during the qualifying period.

“Years down the road, I’m going to have a conversation with my daughter about this stage in my boxing career, I’m now going to be able to tell her that I took time off to become a mom and came back a stronger, better woman and proved that you can have a family and be an Olympian,” Bujold told The Canadian Press. “This decision has impacted not only my future, but also the future generation of young girls.”

Bujold appealed to the CAS after her qualifying tournament in Argentina was scrapped due to COVID-19.

“We did it!” she said in announcing the news on Twitter.

The 33-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario, and her lawyer Sylvie Rodrigue, lost their original appeal to the IOC in May, leaving the CAS her last chance to box in what would be her final Olympics.

Bujold argued discrimination based on sex, because she’d taken time off for pregnancy.

After a competitive year erased by COVID-19, Bujold was confident she’d clinch an Olympic berth at the qualifier in Buenos Aires, but after that event was canceled, boxers were selected on a revised ranking system that used three events between 2018 and 2019 — events she missed because they conflicted with her maternity leave.

Bujold’s daughter, Kate Olympia, was born on Nov. 5, 2018.

“I’m pleased that the members of the (CAS) tribunal have seen the importance in not only my case, but in setting a precedent for the future of women’s sport,” Bujold said. “This decision can give hope to young aspiring athletes around the world, knowing that they don’t have to decide between an Olympic dream and starting a family.”

The news came on a momentous day for female athletes. Earlier Wednesday, the IOC announced that breastfeeding Olympians could have their babies with them in Tokyo, a move that comes a week after Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher made an emotional plea to bring 3-month-old daughter Sophie to the Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement that it strongly believes in gender equity in sport and is pleased with the CAS decision regarding Bujold.

“We understand that the qualification systems have been extremely complicated and some decisions resulted in unintended consequences,” the COC said. “We agree with the decision to grant this appeal recognizing these consequences and the need for accommodation in cases where discrimination has resulted.”

Boxing Canada said in a statement that it applauded Mandy on “this historic decision, and in her fight for gender equity.”

“What an incredible and rightful decision, not only for Mandy and her legal team, but also for all the other female athletes who will benefit over time from this decision,” Boxing Canada executive director Roy Halpin said.

Rodrigue said Bujold’s legal challenge boiled down to human rights. The law states that penalizing a woman because of pregnancy or a postpartum period is discrimination.

“We recognize that the pandemic may have required making changes to the qualification criteria for boxers in the Americas, the only continent by the way where the qualifying event was canceled,” she said. “But discrimination of any kind, including based on sex remains illegal, pandemic or not.

“Mandy did not choose not to go to a qualifying event . . . Mandy planned her pregnancy according to the Olympic cycle, specifically so she would be ready to compete at these Olympic qualifiers.”

It’s unknown how Bujold will be added to the Tokyo tournament and what her seeding will be.

“Right now Mandy is continuing her training and we are in a waiting mode in a way,” Rodrigue said.

The full Canadian team will be announced Monday.

“Mandy will be on that list. So from our perspective, the next step is Tokyo,” Rodrigue said.

Bujold is a two-time Pan American Games gold medalist. Illness derailed her quest for a medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The night before her quarterfinal bout she was in hospital receiving an IV. She lost that match.

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