Canadian boxer Mandy Bujold has Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault in her corner.
Guilbeault, who oversees amateur sport in Canada, has sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee and its president Thomas Bach asking the IOC to reconsider its stance and give the two-time Pan American Games champion a spot in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Bujold's fate for a spot in this summer's Olympics currently lies in the hands of the Court of Arbitration for Sport after her qualifying tournament was scrapped due to the pandemic.
Bujold and her lawyer, Sylvie Rodrigue, lost their original appeal to the IOC earlier this month, leaving the CAS as her last chance to box in what would be her final Olympics.
"I would like to take this opportunity to extend my full support for Ms. Bujold’s inclusion in these Games," Guilbeault wrote.
"The Government of Canada is committed to creating an environment in which women and girls can safely and confidently engage in sport at all ages and all levels. Much like the International Olympic Committee, we have set a target to achieve gender equality in sport and we fund research to increase the representation and participation of girls and women in sport. A critical part of that inclusive and encouraging environment is ensuring that inspiring women like Ms. Bujold can achieve the same accolades as their male counterparts—regardless of their family status."
After a competitive year erased by COVID-19, the 11-time national flyweight champion had been confident she'd clinch a berth at the qualifying tournament this month in Buenos Aires. The event was cancelled amid coronavirus cases in Argentina.
With no remaining international competitions for boxers from the Americas, athletes were selected on a revised ranking system using three events between 2018 and 2019 — events Bujold didn't compete in because they conflicted with her maternity leave. Bujold's daughter Kate was born on Nov. 5, 2018.
"The decision by the IOC to only consider rankings for three events held during an 11-month period in 2018 and 2019 as qualifiers for the Tokyo Games represents a huge systemic failure," said Guilbeault. "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 timeframe decided retroactively by the IOC, a timeframe where Ms. Bujold was pregnant and then on maternity leave caring for her new child."
Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who represented Canada while winning gold in the super-heavyweight division at the 1988 Olympics, also took to Twitter last week to add his support for Bujold.
"I really hope the (Olympic) committee reconsiders its position here," said Lewis. "Women should not be penalized for doing things that women do or making choices that women make."
Bujold, from Kitchener, Ont., also got support on Twitter from former tennis star Billie Jean King.
Guilbeault went on to say that the Tokyo Games won't be the same without the 33-year-old Bujold, who was previously ranked No. 2 in the Americas.
"Purely from a boxing perspective, the tournament in Tokyo will not truly be world class without Ms. Bujold involved," he said. "With two Pan-Am gold medals, and a 5th place finish in Rio 2016 – Ms. Bujold is a proven fierce competitor. She is a trailblazer, a champion, and an inspiration to many."
— With files from Lori Ewing.
The Canadian Press