LOS ANGELES -- Skirts are optional.
That was the message Ching-Kuo Wu, president of the Amateur International Boxing Association, wanted to send Saturday afternoon at the IOC's 5th World Conference on Women and Sport, the same day, it should be noted, the women's U.S. Olympic boxing trials were wrapping up in Airway Heights, Wash.
"I want to clarify what's been said over the past six months," Wu said. "We never asked women to wear skirts. We heard recommendations about this from national federations and boxers, and made the option."
Although a formal decision has not been handed down, Wu said that will come in the next few weeks, along with a press release outlining guidelines for skirt lengths and technical requirements, should a country choose to adopt new uniforms. "Then national federations can design the skirts by themselves," he said.
The buzz began at the 2010 world championships, when AIBA presented competitors with skirts instead of the usual shorts associated with the sport and asked the women to wear them as a trial.
"I have heard people say, 'We can't tell the difference between the men and the women,' especially on TV, since they are in the same uniforms and wearing headgear," Wu told the Times Union of Albany, N.Y., in September 2010, shortly before those world championships. Saturday, he said he still hears similar comments, including complaints that the baggy shorts look sloppy on women. But at the AIBA commissions meeting in Bangkok last month, he also heard discontent from several national federations that feared the prospect of their female boxers being forced to wear skirts.
"All seven of our commissions met jointly, including the women's commission and the technical rules commission, and one issue on the agenda was about the women's uniform," Wu said. "And they are so divided. At the European women's championships, the Polish team wore skirts they designed themselves. Some Canadian boxers said they preferred the skirts because of easy movement. But Katie Taylor from Ireland does not like the skirts. And other women have said they do not like them and would like to wear the shorts. It's divided. So it will be optional."
But while skirts will not be an AIBA requirement in London, there could still be women at the Games required to wear skirts by their national federation. At October's 2011 world championships, for example, Poland Boxing made skirts compulsory, saying they are more "elegant." "Wearing skirts, in my opinion, gives a good impression, a womanly impression," Poland coach Leszek Piotrowski told BBC Sport. "Wearing shorts is not a good way for women boxers to dress."
So far, the majority of women boxers seem to disagree with Piotrowski's take. "I don't even wear miniskirts on a night out, so I definitely won't be wearing one in the ring," Taylor, a three-time world champ, told the BBC. But U.S. flyweight Tyrieshia Douglas told The Associated Press earlier this week she would choose to wear a skirt in competition.
"We're women and women should be wearing a woman's uniform," Douglas said. "We need to look more feminine. Under the headgear, you don't know if it's a man or a woman if we don't have any boobs. You don't know until we take off the headgear."