The Ukrainian junior team forbidden from competing under flag or anthem at European championships; IOC will conduct a full review of world governing body IBA in December; Boxing remains off the programme for the 2028 Olympic Games with hopes for return diminishing
Friday 30 September 2022 13:13, UK
Boxing remains on the brink of being permanently excluded from the Olympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will conduct a full review of the International Boxing Association (IBA), the sport's governing body, at its next meeting in December.
The IBA unexpectedly banned Ukraine's national federation and has now forbidden Ukraine's junior team from competing under their flag and anthem at the European championships, currently underway in Italy. That has caused the IOC to raise serious concerns about the IBA yet again.
The IOC has said it would conduct a full review at its next meeting in December.
IBA is already on the brink of losing its Olympic Games spot over governance, finance and refereeing issues dating back years.
Amateur boxing's world governing body was also stripped of involvement in last year's Tokyo Olympics, and the sport is not on the initial programme for the Los Angeles Games in 2028 pending a string of reforms demanded by the IOC.
The IOC is running the boxing competitions for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
"The IOC is extremely concerned about the situation in the federation (IBA)," the IOC told Reuters in a statement on Friday. "Amongst other concerns, this includes the fact that the recognised Ukrainian National Boxing Federation was suspended shortly before the IBA Congress for disputed reasons."
The board said it would review the situation at its next meeting, scheduled for December 5-7.
The IBA, run by Russian businessman Umar Kremlev, suspended the Ukrainian federation last week, leaving it unable to cast a vote at the federation's elections.
The IBA does not recognise Kyrylo Shevchenko as president of the Ukrainian federation but instead considers Volodymyr Prodyvus, an ally of Kremlev who left Ukraine after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and is now an IBA vice-president, as head.
In an unprecedented move this week the IBA also forbade the Ukrainian junior boxing team from competing under their flag and anthem at the European Championships in Italy, citing the ongoing dispute with the country's boxing federation.
"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 said.
It had already warned last month that slow-moving reforms and IBA's financial dependence on Russian energy firm Gazprom were of grave concern.
Wladimir Klitschko, the former world heavyweight champion who stayed in his homeland to support the resistance to the Russian invasion, has voiced his support for the national team, criticising "Russian members of IBA leadership and Volodymyr Prodyvus".
Oleksandr Uysk, the reigning unified heavyweight champion who, like Klitschko, has won an Olympic gold medal for Ukraine, has also commented on the situation.
"I'd like to express my support for the Ukrainian national boxing team, which was forbidden from competing under the flag and anthem of Ukraine at the European championship," he said.
In a message directed at Umar Kremlev on social media, Usyk said: "It's not just a flag, these are the colours of freedom all over the world."
To the boxers he said: "You are great and thank you for showing the whole world your bravery and power of spirit. Ukrainians are strong-willed."
On Sunday IBA members voted against rerunning the election for president, which was viewed as a key part of establishing better governance.
The move prompted further fears that boxing will not be an Olympic sport after 2024.
England Boxing, the national federation, reacted afterwards, underscoring the need for deep-rooted reform, saying that the IOC's heightened concerns are justified.
"We are very disappointed by what has happened at the IBA Extraordinary Congress, share the IOC's concerns and worry about what this could mean for the future of Olympic boxing," said England Boxing's Chief Executive Officer Jerome Pels.
"We were supporting Boris van der Vorst and thoroughly expected to have the right to vote for him at a democratic election. We believe that he would have been the right candidate in taking the IBA forward, in fixing the governance and restoring its reputation as a world governing body.
"The fact that election was sidestepped, by voting if an election was needed in the first place, has clearly further heightened the concerns of the IOC - and justifiably so.
"Continuing with the status quo may have huge consequences for the sport and the athletes who want to compete in fair and well-managed competitions.
"England Boxing will be monitoring very carefully how the relationships between the IOC and the IBA develop. It is a must that the IBA's number one goal is to get back in the fold of the Olympic family, and for it to be restored as the trusted authority managing the sport of boxing at the highest level, and there is not much time left to get that job done."