The International Olympic Committee (IOC) governing body has said it will conduct a review of the International Boxing Association’s (IBA) decision to ban the Ukrainian Boxing Federation (UBF) at its next meeting in December.
The Ukrainian member federation was suspended in September essentially because the IBA did not recognize Kyrylo Shevchenko, who was selected as president of the UBF, in that position.
It meant that the body could not then vote at a meeting held to establish whether the IBA should commission fresh presidential elections (an option which was not taken up, meaning president Umar Kremlev will remain in place for the next four years).
Instead, the IBA has asserted that Volodymyr Prodyvus, a friend of its Russian president Umar Kremlev who left Ukraine after the February invasion and has since become a vice president at IBA, is the head of the Ukrainian body.
Kremlev, the IBA's head since December 2020, is Russian. In February this year, Russia, with material assistance from Belarus, invaded Ukraine, and indeed still occupies large swathes of that country’s eastern districts.
News of the IOC review, which will take place at a meeting from December 5 to 7, comes as the IBA continues to battle with issues around governance, its finances, and longstanding corruption allegations.
It has already been left off the program for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics and the IOC itself ran the boxing events at the Tokyo games last year.
In a statement to Reuters late last week, the IOC said: “The IOC is extremely concerned about the situation [at the IBA]. Amongst other concerns, this includes the fact that the recognized Ukrainian national boxing federation was suspended shortly before the IBA congress for disputed reasons.”
The consequences of the UBF's suspension have already been seen. Just after the suspension was put in place, Ukraine’s junior boxing team was told that it must compete under the IBA flag rather than its own at the European championships in Italy (ongoing, set to finish on September 4).
The IOC added, on this front: “The fact that the Ukrainian junior boxing team is not allowed to participate in the European championship in Italy if they compete using national identifiers such as the national flag, anthem, and any symbols of Ukraine adds to the many concerns expressed before.”
The IOC had already said earlier in September that it had “grave concerns”, about the running of the IBA under Kremlev, in particular around the body’s continued financial dependence on Russia’s state-backed energy giant Gazprom.
The IBA, meanwhile, said in a statement published last Friday (September 30) that the suspension was in accordance with its constitution and regulations and that it will “not affect the boxers of Ukraine.”
Kremlev said: “The board of directors voted for the suspension of the national federation, not the athletes. In its decision, the board of directors of the IBA exempted the Ukrainian athletes from the suspension and in addition provided for the coverage of the expenses of the Ukrainian athletes to participate in the official championships of the IBA.
The details of their participation and the use of national insignia have already been arranged. I reiterate that all boxers must be allowed to compete under their national flag, no matter what …”
He also touched on the ongoing ban from almost all national sporting federations handed out to Russian and Belarusian athletes.
He said, on that front: “The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries …
“Both the IOC and the international federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality … It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics.
“The IBA and I personally are ready to follow such a joint initiative, and I call on everyone to rise to the occasion and leave our athletes out of politics.”
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