In the latest blow to boxing’s survival as an Olympic sport the International Boxing Association (IBA) has voted to allow Russia and Belarus to return to all its competitions with immediate effect and fight again under their own national flags.
In direct contradiction to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who last February called for all International Federations (IF’s) to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from their competitions because of the war in Ukraine, the IBA Board of Directors on Wednesday voted in favour of cancelling its previous decision and allow boxers of Russia and Belarus back into all IBA events.
In a statement, the IBA said: “The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports. Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.
“Respecting its own autonomy as the international sports federation, the IBA shall remain politically neutral and independent. IBA calls for peace and remains a peacemaker in any conflicts. Moreover, the IBA has obligation to ensure equal treatment towards the athletes and competition officials, regardless of their nationality and residence.”
Furthermore, it added: “Both Russian and Belarus teams will be able to perform under their flags, and the national anthems will be played in case they win a gold medal.
“According to the decision, the technical officials of Russia and Belarus will also be back in the competitions.”
This latest standoff comes after the IBA’s Extraordinary Congress in Armenia last Sunday week. Although the Court of Arbitration for (CAS) ruled the IBA presidential election last May should have allowed Dutch candidate Boris van der Vorst to stand, Sunday’s re-election never went ahead, the IBA delegates voting 106-36 in favour of Umar Kremlev remaining as president without any contest.
The IOC stripped the IBA of all recognition in 2019, and although it will organise boxing on its own terms for the Paris Olympics in 2024, it hasn’t included boxing in the programme for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.
A final decision will be made on that next year, one that’s unlikely to be overturned unless the IBA suddenly clean up their act; the re-inclusion of Russia and Belarus sends out a different message entirely.
Following the IBA’s Extraordinary Congress, an IOC statement last week said it was “extremely concerned”, sending their last warning perhaps that boxing as an Olympic sport is on its last standing count. The knock-out blow will be next.
Still the IBA wasn’t too bothered, Kremlev saying “we shouldn’t say Olympic boxing, we should say IBA boxing”.
The IOC will “fully review the situation at its next meeting”. Kremlev is unfazed however, the Russian businessman further distancing himself from the IOC by moving much of the IBA’s operations from Lausanne to Moscow, its enduring links with Russian majority state-owned gas behemoth Gazprom also an issue for the IOC.