Canada's Mandy Bujold wins battle to box in Tokyo Olympics

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Mandy Bujold has been ruled eligible to box at the Tokyo Olympics after not competing in the qualification period because she was pregnant and postpartum.  (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/File - image credit)
Mandy Bujold has been ruled eligible to box at the Tokyo Olympics after not competing in the qualification period because she was pregnant and postpartum. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/File - image credit)

Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold has won her fight to participate in next month's Tokyo Olympics.

Bujold said Wednesday the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled that the qualification criteria must include an accommodation for women who were pregnant or postpartum during the qualification period.

"I am excited to say that my legal battle was won," Bujold, 33, said in a statement.

"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 Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said in a statement that it strongly believes in gender equity in sport and is pleased with the CAS decision.

"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."

On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in a statement that it was "carefully studying" the decision and that CAS had not yet provided the IOC with reasons for its award in this specific case.

"The IOC boxing task force will consider how to make the accommodations mandated by CAS while upholding the principle that any sport qualification criteria must be related to objective sporting performance on the field of play," the statement said.

The IOC said the accommodations concerned "a very limited number of athletes from the Americas region" for the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Bujold, a fighter from Kitchener, Ont., had originally been ruled ineligible to compete because she was pregnant and postpartum with her daughter, Kate Olympia, in 2018 and 2019, the period the IOC used to determine qualification after the pandemic wiped out the 2020 competitive year.

Bujold had been ranked second in the world before her maternity leave, but didn't compete in the three events used in the IOC's revised ranking.

'Historic decision'

In its statement on Wednesday, Boxing Canada executive director Roy Halpin called the CAS's decision "historic."

"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," said Halpin. "Boxing Canada wishes to congratulate Mandy on this historic decision, and in her fight for gender equity."

The 11-time national flyweight champion had been confident she'd clinch a berth at the Olympic qualifying tournament in May in Buenos Aires, but the event was cancelled due to climbing COVID-19 case numbers in Argentina.

WATCH | Bujold with her daughter:

Bujold and her lawyer, Sylvie Rodrigue, had originally petitioned the IOC for a berth but were turned down and appealed to the CAS.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, the COC and Boxing Canada all appealed to the IOC on Bujold's behalf.

Rodrigue said Bujold's legal challenge boiled down to human rights; the law says 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 cancelled," 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."

Bujold, a two-time Pan American Games champion, will be the first woman to box for Canada at consecutive Olympics. An illness derailed her dreams at the 2016 Rio Games and she finished fifth.

Bujold said her fight for qualification was more about gender equality than it was about her Olympic status.

"My Olympic berth is not what matters here," Bujold said in her statement. "What matters is the reoccurring pattern of gender inequality in sport. Women should not be punished for being women. They should be respected for the unique challenges they face and continually overcome."

It's still 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's case drew support from numerous high profile people, including former tennis star Billie Jean King and former heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis.

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