The International Olympic Committee has raised the very real prospect of boxing being excluded from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, saying the Russian-led International Boxing Association (IBA) has “no real interest” in the sport or its athletes.
Due to concerns over its governance and financial stability, IBA had earlier been stripped of involvement in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with the IOC running the competition.
Boxing is scheduled to be included in Paris 2024, but IBA could again be stopped from running the competition, pending reforms demanded by the IOC. The sport is already not on the initial programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
An IOC spokesperson said: “The recent IBA Congress has shown once more that IBA has no real interest in the sport of boxing and the boxers, but is only interested in its own power.
“The decisions and discussions to keep boxers away from the Olympic qualifiers and the Olympic Games cannot be understood differently.”
Qualifying for the Paris 2024 boxing tournament is being organised by the IOC, but it said that growing concerns over IBA mean that a further decision “may have to include the cancellation of boxing for the Olympic Games Paris 2024”.
IBA is run by Russian Umar Kremlev with financial backing from Russian energy firm Gazprom. The IOC spokesperson said the IBA extending its deal with Gazprom recently showed it had “no will to understand the real issues”.
“The extension of the sponsorship contract with Gazprom as sole main sponsor of IBA reinforces the concerns, which the IOC has expressed since 2019 over and over again,” the spokesperson added.
“This announcement confirms that IBA will continue to depend on a company largely controlled by the Russian government.”
An extraordinary IBA congress in September had voted against holding a new election, allowing Kremlev to remain as president, after a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling that Dutch candidate Boris van der Vorst was wrongly prevented from standing.
The spokesperson said the IOC’s concerns included the handling of the CAS decision.
“The IOC will have to take all this into consideration when it takes further decisions, which may – after these latest developments – have to include the cancellation of boxing for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.”
In turn, Kremlev has accused Olympic organisers of “persecution” and “extortion” for suspending IBA over governance and finance issues.
The 2024 Olympic boxing qualifying period starts May 1.
Boxing made its Olympic debut in 1904 and has been on the programme continuously since then, except the 1912 Games in Stockholm as Swedish law banned the sport at the time.