The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended to the IOC Session that official recognition of the International Boxing Association (IBA) governing body be withdrawn.

Following an emergency meeting yesterday (June 7), the IOC issued a statement calling on its member federations to take the major step of permanently excluding the beleaguered IBA. This ends the federation’s hopes of governing boxing events in future Olympic games, although the sport remains on the Paris 2024 calendar (to be overseen by the IOC).

The report specifically recommends that “the IBA should not organize the Olympic Games LA28 boxing tournament,” claiming that serious issues around governance, financial affairs, and refereeing and judging have not been satisfactorily addressed.

In response, the IBA has called the IOC’s move “truly abhorrent and purely political.”

The IOC has said its decision – which looks likely to be one of the final acts in a lengthy feud between that body and the IBA – is based on a report about the IBAs overall situation, made publicly available on June 2. The report claims in great detail that IBA “has failed to fulfill the conditions set by the IOC in its decision communicated to the IBA on December 9, 2021 – which was not challenged – for lifting the suspension of IBA’s recognition.”

Boxing’s governing body has been suspended by the IOC since June 2019. The IOC has said that while there was sufficient evidence at that time to fully withdraw the IBA’s recognition, a second chance was issued to the body – on the proviso that it made material changes to multiple aspects of its affairs by this year.

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The December 2021 decision mentioned above was for that suspension to be extended, and for specific requirements to be laid down, which the IBA would have to implement in order to be readmitted in 2023.

In its report, the IOC concluded that “despite the various chances given to IBA … The IBA was unable to provide the elements which would have allowed the lifting of its suspension.

“The situation has become so serious that the only proportional conclusion is to withdraw the IOC’s recognition of IBA pursuant to the Olympic Charter.”

An extraordinary IOC Session will be held remotely on June 22, to discuss the matter and take a decision.

The IOC has recommended to the next Session that despite the looming withdrawal, boxing should be kept on the sports program for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The report goes into substantial depth on the events of the past seven years in terms of the relationship between the IOC and the IBA.

It analyses the events which led to the IBA’s original suspension in June 2019, as well as the rationale behind an extension of that suspension in December 2021. It then assesses the various IBA “points of non-compliance” across the three sectors referred to above.

On the subject of governance, the report concludes that “the IOC’s concerns regarding IBA’s effective governance are still unaddressed.”

The report refers specifically (among other examples) to the botched IBA presidential elections in mid-2022, and the fact that the IBA did not fulfill a pledge to set up a Boxing Independent Integrity Unit by the end of 2022 as it had pledged.

The presidential elections essentially turned into re-election by acclamation for incumbent Umar Kremlev, despite the fact that a challenger, Boris van der Vorst, had been registered to stand.

The fact that all members of the IBA’s audit committee resigned simultaneously eight months after being appointed is also not looked at favorably in the report.

In terms of the financial element of its investigation, the report condemns the IBA’s attempt to have the EY auditor sign a non-disclosure agreement before undertaking an assessment the of IBA’s financial situation. The IOC has said this “clearly prevented EY from sharing with the IOC any findings.”

The report also claims that “the absence of sustainable financing and the dependence on [Russian] state-owned former sponsor Gazprom have not been remedied” and points out that the IBA nearly accounts in June 2022 raised “uncertainty around operating as a going concern in the mid to long term.”

The IOC’s investigation also takes a dim view of an alleged IBA comment on May 1 that “we will extend Gazprom if there is an opportunity.”

The IOC has said it told the IBA in various letters over the last 12 months to “diversify its revenues and achieve financial independence” from Gazprom – especially given that firm has now been sanctioned by international authorities (following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February).

IBA hits back

Responding to the IOC’s recommendation, the IBA has said in a statement that the recommendation of the IOC “does not recognize the reality of the situation, where extraordinary progress on reforms and internationally recognized standards of good governance has been implemented.”

It is reserving the right “to take retaliatory measures.”

Umar Kremlev, the Russian president of the IBA, said: “For four years, the IBA has not received a single opportunity to present its achievements at an in-person meeting with the IOC, rather than only exchanging letters and emails instead. We accepted the process and the rules, but in the end, we were not assessed fairly. Now, we are left with no chance but to demand a fair assessment from a competent court.”

He added that “strong, autonomous, and financially independent international federations should be keenly aware and concerned as they are witnessing the time-tested political and strategic tool of orchestrated coups for the sake of regime change.”

George Yerolimpos, the IBA’s secretary general and chief executive, added: “The IBA should be commended for its repeated attempts to work with the IOC to find a solution in our fight to oversee Olympic boxing alongside our World Boxing Championships and other IBA competitions and we will continue to explore options with the IOC in a spirit of open dialogue.”

Waiting in the wings, meanwhile, is the rebel organization World Boxing, which was set up in mid-April.

Several countries – including the UK, US, and Switzerland – have already withdrawn from the IBA to join that body, which has saving boxing’s future at the Olympics as a key aim.

In a statement following the IOC’s decision, World Boxing hailed a “very significant moment.”

It said: “IBA’s persistent failure to address longstanding issues over sporting integrity, governance, transparency, and financial management has caused huge damage to international boxing and we welcome the clarity provided by the IOC … World Boxing … is committed to working constructively and collaboratively with the IOC."

“Boxing is at a crossroads and we urge every national federation that cares about boxers and boxing to think about how they can help to deliver a better future for the sport and support World Boxing in its efforts to keep boxing at the heart of the Olympic movement.”

Image: Julian Finney/Getty Images