As he stood at the double-door entrance to the office of Iraqi National Olympic Committee president Uday Hussein, the boxer knew what awaited on the other side. He had just returned from a Gulf States competition, where he had been knocked out in the first round. Now it was time to pay the price.
A former double for Uday says Iraq's Olympic programs have been destroyed since Saddam gave his son control in 1984 and the brutal punishment of athletes began. AP Photo
Inside the yellow-and-blue office, Uday, the older of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's two sons, paced the floor, waving his expensive Cuban cigar and glaring out the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Baghdad. "He was yelling about how Iraq should not be embarrassed by its athletes," recalls Latif Yahia, employed for nearly five years as Uday's body double -- he would stand in for Uday on occasions that were deemed a security threat -- and one of his closest associates to have escaped to the West. "He kept saying, 'This is my Iraq. Embarrassing Iraq embarrasses me.'"
With a wave of Uday's arm the manacled boxer was led into the room by Iraqi secret service. Sitting behind a dark wood desk beneath an oversized portrait of himself, Uday began his tirade. "In sport you can win or you can lose. I told you not to come home if you didn't win." His voice rising, he walked around the desk and gave the boxer a lesson. "This is how you box," he screamed as he threw a left and a right straight to the fighter's face. Blood dribbled from the athlete's nose as Uday launched another round of punches. Then, using the electric prod he was famous for carrying, Uday jolted the boxer in the chest.
Blood was streaming from a cut above the boxer's eye when Uday ordered his guards to fetch a straight razor. The boxer cried out as Uday held the razor to his throat, and as he moved the blade to the fighter's forehead, Uday laughed. He then shaved the man's eyebrows, an insult to Muslim males. "Take him downstairs and finish the job," Uday screamed.
Says Yahia, "They took him to the basement of the Olympic building. It has a 30-cell prison where athletes -- and anyone else who is out of favor with Uday -- are beaten and tortured. That was the last I ever heard of that boxer."