June 30 (Reuters) - Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold said on Wednesday that her dream to compete in the Tokyo Olympics was “intact” after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that qualification criteria must accommodate women who were pregnant or had given birth.
After qualifying events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to use results from three tournaments over an 11-month period between 2018 and 2019 to determine Tokyo boxing berths.
But Bujold, a two-time Pan Am Games champion who was among the top flyweights in the world before her maternity leave, was pregnant and postpartum during the adjusted period and was therefore left without any qualification points.
Bujold, 33, said the IOC did not respond to a letter she sent them pleading her case and that of other women that might be in a similar situation and so decided to take her battle to CAS, sport’s highest court.
“I am excited to say that my legal battle was won. The court ruled that the qualification criteria must include an accommodation for women who were pregnant or postpartum during the qualification period,” Bujold said in a statement.
She added: “It was one of the biggest fights of my career, but also the fight with the most meaning. I was standing up for what I believe is right and for the dream I had worked so hard for.
“And I am so proud that we’ve set a human rights precedent for female athletes now, and for the generations to come.”
Bujold made her Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games where she advanced to the quarter-finals and suffered a defeat after spending the night in hospital with an illness.
An 11-times national champion, Bujold said her legal battle was mentally draining but that she continued to train as she needed to be ready if the outcome went her way.
“My Olympic berth is not what matters here. What matters is the recurring pattern of gender inequality in sport,” said Bujold.
“Women should not be punished for being women. They should be respected for the unique challenges they face and continually overcome. And that’s why my story is so important to me.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said in a separate statement that it believes strongly 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 in a statement.
“We agree with the decision to grant this appeal recognizing these consequences and the need for accommodation in cases where discrimination has resulted.” (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto Editing by Toby Davis)