Heritage minister asks IOC to let Bujold compete after boxer missed Olympic qualifying events while pregnant
'She is a trailblazer, a champion, and an inspiration to many,' minister's letter says
In a lengthy letter to International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault asked the organization to reconsider its decision to keep boxer Mandy Bujold from competing at the Tokyo Olympics in July.
Because two qualifying events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IOC went back to an 11-month period between 2018 and 2019, including three events, to qualify boxers for the Games.
Bujold was pregnant and postpartum during that time, leaving her without any qualification points. Prior to that, she had consistently ranked among the top four flyweights.
"I urge you to reconsider the decision to exclude Mandy Bujold, in the name of fairness and on the basis of our mutually stated ambitions of gender equity, human rights and promoting women and girls participating in sport," wrote Guilbeault, the minister responsible for sport, in the letter obtained by CBC Sports.
It comes two weeks after the IOC denied the 33-year-old Kitchener, Ont., fighter's request to be qualified for competition.
Bujold is one of Canada's most successful boxers, with two Pan American and 11 national championships.
WATCH | Mandy Bujold on her fight to compete in Tokyo:
Guilbeault wrote to Bach that the decision by the IOC to only consider rankings for three events as qualifiers for the Tokyo Games represents "a huge systemic failure."
"Making the decision to become a mother in 2018 should not penalize Ms. Bujold from having the opportunity to compete in Olympic Games based upon a specified time frame decided retroactively by the IOC, a time frame where Ms. Bujold was pregnant and then on maternity leave caring for her new child," Guilbeault wrote.
CBC Sports contacted the IOC, asking a number of questions about Bujold's case including what its response to Guilbeault's letter was but the organization says it won't be commenting.
"You will understand that the IOC is in no position to comment on a case currently pending in front of an International Arbitral Tribunal," a media representative sent in an email.
She chose to start a family in 2018 and missed some tournaments that the IOC, because of the pandemic, would later decide that is how they will qualify female fighters for Olympic status. <a href="https://twitter.com/MandyBujold?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MandyBujold</a> was ranked No. 2 in the America’s before her pregnancy…—@LennoxLewis
Bujold and her legal team are up against a tight timeline now but aren't giving up. Their next steps include going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport — a last-ditch effort to get Bujold into the Games.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Olympic Committee also pledged its support for Bujold.
"We are working closely with Mandy and her team on the appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in respect of Mandy's qualification for Tokyo and hope that she will be able to compete in the Games," CEO David Shoemaker said.
Bujold has told CBC Sports she will be retiring after these Olympics and it was her hope to podium at the Games before stepping away from the sport. She says she has seen the letter and is grateful for the support from the Canadian government.
"He made a lot of really great points and I appreciate that he took the time to show his support," Bujold told CBC Sports.
In 2020, qualifying events were cancelled around the world. Pregnancy is not an injury, & should not be treated as one. <br><br><a href="https://twitter.com/MandyBujold?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MandyBujold</a> should be allowed to compete. Women athletes will continue having babies, & the I.O.C needs a rule in place now. <a href="https://t.co/JQigPjQ8xx">https://t.co/JQigPjQ8xx</a>—@BillieJeanKing
In the letter, Guilbeault says Bujold's exclusion from the Tokyo Olympics sends a message to "female athletes the world over — you can be an athlete, or a mother — but not both at the same time. Hers is a nuanced case that requires consideration, not rigidity."
He goes on to write that gender equity in sport represents an important aspect of advancing equality and fairness for women in sport and society, and "how this decision came to be is an injustice to Ms. Bujold."
"It does not reflect how our government or, frankly, how the IOC views gender equality, female empowerment or encouraging mothers in sport," Guilbeault wrote.
And purely from a boxing perspective, he wrote, based on Bujold's track record, "the tournament in Tokyo will not truly be world class without Ms. Bujold involved."
"She is a trailblazer, a champion, and an inspiration to many. The IOC should strive to ensure that every Olympic competition is representative of the world's best athletes. In this case, that includes Mandy Bujold."
WATCH | Bujold shares athletic passion with her daughter: