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Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 14:24 UK

Boxer Saunders protests innocence

Billy Joe Saunders
Saunders reportedly received a letter of suspension on his return to Britain

Olympic boxer Billy Joe Saunders has vowed to clear his name after allegations of lewd behaviour.

The Amateur Boxing Association has not been able to confirm reports a letter was sent to Saunders telling the 18-year-old he had been suspended.

Saunders told the BBC the issue has "been blown out of all proportion".

The incident at the centre of the controversy was believed to have happened during a pre-Games training camp in France.

Saunders was beaten 13-6 by Cuban Carlos Banteaux in the second round of the welterweight division in Beijing.

BBC Radio 5 Live sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar said: "There is a bit of newspaper speculation about what the allegations might be, possibly involving a French woman, perhaps the posting of a video on a website.

"But that is not confirmed. What we can say is that he does now face a hearing."

BBC sports news correspondent James Pearce spoke to Saunders, who is now back in the UK.

Saunders said he did not post a video on a website, has not seen the video and does not even own a computer.

He added that he barely remembers the incident in France but was "having a laugh" and has done nothing wrong.

The news comes a day after James DeGale secured Britain's best boxing performance at an Olympic Games for 36 years by becoming the third fighter to guarantee a medal in Beijing.

DeGale will be in action on Friday along with light-heavyweight Tony Jeffries and David Price, the Liverpool super-heavyweight.

Nobody involved with boxing should be distracting the team at this time

Team GB chief Simon Clegg

In a statement, Britain's boxing head coach Terry Edwards said he was "extremely disillusioned" by the allegations and questioned the timing of the reports.

Edwards said: "My focus over the next 48 hours is to prepare my three boxers for their semi-final bouts.

"The allegations made in the media about the conduct of athletes on the British Boxing Programme are, on the whole, unfounded.

"I feel extremely disillusioned that I have learnt of the suspension of one of my boxers from the media.

"Above all though, I am so sad that this, together with the other allegations made, have been raised to distract and unsettle me, the coaching team, and more importantly my boxers ahead of the most important bouts of their lives."

But the ABA's press and public relations officer Ron Bodie added to the confusion by claiming to be unaware of any ban inflicted on Saunders by the organisation.

"The incident being referred to is an alleged incident from months ago. It would and should have been investigated then," he told Radio 5 Live.

"The chairman of the ABA (Keith Walters) is the only person who would know if he has been suspended. I don't know whether he has been suspended."

British Olympic Association chief executive Simon Clegg criticised the conduct of the ABA ahead of the climax of the Olympic competition.

"The ABA choosing to issue Billy Joe Saunders with a suspension on Wednesday relating to an incident which happened months before the Olympic Games is extremely disappointing," he said.

"Releasing such allegations to the media at this time could prove detrimental to the critical preparations of the other three boxers who will be contesting to reach the final of the boxing competition on Friday.

"We are frustrated that our athletes and the boxing coaching team will have to deal with this added pressure and distraction at this point in the Games.

"Nobody involved with boxing should be distracting the team at this time."


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