The International Boxing Association (IBA) governing body has used an open letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to express “deep concerns about basic IOC governance, impartiality, and transparency principles.”

The letter stems from the IOC preparing to use IBA technical officials at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, despite the boxing body not being in charge of its own sport at that event. The IOC will manage boxing at the Paris games, amid ongoing concerns about several aspects of how the IBA is conducting its affairs.

However, the IBA has now threatened its judges and officials who take part in the Paris games with disciplinary action and has suggested their involvement would be in breach of both a data transfer agreement struck with the IOC in 2019 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The IBA has said that contact details through which the IOC got in touch with these officials were obtained “unlawfully” and that the process has been carried out “without prior approval or communication to IBA.”

The boxing federation said this has demonstrated a “lack of transparency and cooperation with the IBA from the respective IOC staff.”

This is the latest incident in a long-standing dispute between the IOC and the IBA revolving around the latter body’s governance structures, financial situation, and commercial deal with Gazprom, the gas giant partly owned by the Russian state

The IOC also took care of the boxing events at Tokyo 2020, while there is doubt as to whether that sport will even be on the program for Los Angeles 2028.

The IBA (under its previous name of AIBA) was suspended by the IOC in 2019.

The IBA said in its letter that its own officials cannot take part at Paris 2024 qualifiers or at the event itself without the IBA’s permission and that the move “undermines the IBA’s investment in a high-quality process for our officials [and shows] a lack of common decency and cooperation.”

The IBA, led by Russian Umar Kremlev (another source of IOC irritation), has called for an IOC investigation into the alleged breach of the 2019 agreement between the two bodies, and has said it will "will reserve all rights to seek redress before the competent court against the IOC to request damages for breach of the agreement illegitimate use of our intellectual property …”

The IBA also said that recent requests for meetings with the IOC’s chief ethics and compliance officer Paquerette Zappelli and sports director Kit McConnell have not been heeded. 

However, the International Federation for Sports Officials has stated that judges and referees are essentially being held hostage for the IBA through this dispute.

This open letter was issued in the build-up to an IOC executive board meeting, at which boxing’s status at the Paris and Los Angeles Olympics is likely to be a significant topic of debate.

Relations between the IOC and the IBA have been frosty for many years, but have deteriorated since the controversial re-election of Kremlev last year.

In May 2022, Kremlev retained his position as president after delegates voted against holding a fresh election, despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that Dutch official Boris van de Vorst should be allowed to stand to oppose the incumbent.

Then, in December, the IOC said the IBA would continue to be shut out of future Olympic programs until it implements a “drastic change of culture.”

The Olympic governing body said three months ago that the issues which the IBA had at that point failed to address include “ongoing concerns around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability, and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes.”

Another key talking point at the IOC’s executive board meeting, which begins today (March 28) and will run through Thursday (March 30), will be the status of athletes from Russia and Belarus.

Over the last two months, the IOC has consulted with a series of stakeholders over how to potentially reinstate athletes from those two countries into international competition. 

Early last year, the IOC banned Russian and Belarusian competitors, officials, and coaches from its competitions as a direct consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 (with material assistance from Belarus).

It also called on the various international sporting federations to do the same.

However, in recent months the IOC has changed its stance, suggesting that Russian and Belarusian athletes could qualify for the Paris games through the Asian qualifying system and that they could then compete as neutrals at next year’s event.

The IOC said last week that a boycott of the games – which some countries have threatened if Russian and Belarusian athletes take part – “is a violation of the Olympic Charter” and “goes against the fundamentals of the Olympic movement and the principles it stands for.”

On this subject, 318 fencers have signed a letter to the IOC’s president, Thomas Bach, asking that body and the International Fencing Federation (FIE) to reconsider allowing athletes from the two aforementioned countries to take part in its competitions.

At the FIE extraordinary congress on March 10, the decision to clear entrants from Russia and Belarus to once again take part in events was taken.

The fencers’ letter said: “With complete disregard for athletes’ voices, you have permitted both Russia and Belarus back into FIE competitions, as well as a suspected tournament hosted on Russian soil.

“This is an apparent break of the IOC’s position … and once again exposes Russian interests outweighing the voice and rights of athletes, especially those from Ukraine.”

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