Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold asking IOC to change qualifying rules for pregnant women

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Kitchener, Ont.'s Mandy Bujold is asking the International Olympic Committee to amend its qualifying rules to allow for time off for pregnancy to be taken into consideration. (Courtesy Mandy Bujold - image credit)
Kitchener, Ont.'s Mandy Bujold is asking the International Olympic Committee to amend its qualifying rules to allow for time off for pregnancy to be taken into consideration. (Courtesy Mandy Bujold - image credit)

With the clock ticking down on Mandy Bujold's Tokyo Olympic dream, it's now come down to a pending decision by the International Olympic Committee this week that could determine her fate.

Bujold, one of Canada's most successful boxers with two Pan American and 11 national championships, has secured legal representation in a fight to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

"This is the final round for me. I've got to go all in," Bujold told CBC Sports. "This is how I want to end my career on a high note with an Olympic medal on my neck.

"I have to do whatever I can to get there to fulfill that dream and then retire."

Right now, Bujold is not in line to compete in Tokyo. She was supposed to get the chance to qualify for the Games in Argentina next month but the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event for a second consecutive year.

With no competitions now on the schedule, the IOC had to come up with a revised ranking system, using three events between 2018 and 2019 to determine the four available spots. During that 11-month time frame the IOC used as its ranking system, Bujold gave birth to her daughter and wasn't competing.

She was ranked second before her maternity leave and now she could miss the Olympics completely because of her pregnancy and the pandemic.

"For us it's about gender equity based on the Olympic Charter. The IOC are the ones overseeing this qualification process," said Bujold, who lives in Kitchener, Ont. "This is an opportunity for the IOC to step up."

WATCH | Bujold's fight for more than medals:

Bujold has hired Sylvie Rodrigue, her friend and a 28-year corporate litigator at Torys LLP in Toronto, to help in her fight.

"We're asking for a rule that takes into consideration women who may have been pregnant or postpartum during that time frame," Rodrigue said. "From a legal standpoint, it goes to the fundamental principles of Olympism.

"The IOC in recent years has been promoting women's sports and equity."

Rodrigue delivered their argument to the IOC last week and said the timeline is tight as she expects the IOC to validate its qualification rules by Friday.

Rodrigue said they are prepared to go to arbitration should the IOC not rule in their favour, but she said they remain optimistic the organization will make the right decision and give Bujold a spot at the Olympics.

Rodrigue said should the IOC rule against them, it would send a very different message from the ideals of the IOC .

"It sends the wrong signal. It sends the signal to female athletes that pregnancy must have a negative effect on their performance," she said. "This is to even the playing field for women who were or are pregnant. They shouldn't have to decide between having a baby or staying in the game."

It's been an adventurous two and a half years for Bujold since giving birth in November 2018. Her daughter, Kate Olympia McIver (KO initials weren't planned but a nice surprise according to Bujold), has changed the way Bujold sees the world and approaches her training.

WATCH | Mandy Bujold shares athletic passion with her daughter:

"[She's a] super smart little girl. It completely changes your world for the better," Bujold said. "Having her around watching me train and her trying to copy me is so cute. I want her to see me competing."

Up until a week ago Bujold thought her daughter would get that chance. She said she was heartbroken when she found out her qualifying chance had been cancelled.

She was in peak condition, preparing to earn her spot into the Tokyo Games. Bujold turns 34 two days after the opening ceremony. She plans to retire after these Olympics.

"I want to show my daughter to never give up and keep pushing," she said. "I know the IOC is trying to find ways to qualify athletes but it's hard when it's all being cancelled. You need to have the best athletes there to keep the integrity of the Games."