The International Boxing Association (IBA), run by a Russian and bankrolled by Russian energy firm Gazprom, never seemed comfortable with banning boxers from Russia and Belarus from its competitions.
With Russian Umar Kremlev now in complete control of the sports organisation after his controversial ‘re-election’, he has moved quickly to reverse the ban on his compatriots from boxing.
Barely 10 days after the IBA Congress voted emphatically against permitting a leadership challenge to Kremlev, his team announced that boxers from Russia and Belarus would be allowed to compete with their national flags and anthems.
This puts the boxing federation once again at odds with the International Olympic Committee, which already has grave concerns over IBA’s governance, financial stability and transparency.
IBA under Kremlev has taken an increasingly isolationist path, plunging the future of Olympic boxing into doubt.
Boxing is part of the programme for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, but the boxing competition will be organised by the IOC and not IBA, as was the case at Tokyo 2020.
There are serious doubts that boxing will feature at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
None of this appears to trouble Kremlev, as he can count on IBA’s largest sponsor Russian energy company Gazprom, to provide him a financial lifeline.
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.
“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.
“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,” the statement said.
IBA’s decision will also allow technical officials from Russia and Belarus back into boxing events.
This makes IBA an outlier among sports federations, as Russians and Belarusians are banned from most international sport following the invasion of Ukraine.