IOC calls for replacing IBA with new federation

IOC calls for replacing IBA with new federation

The confrontation between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Boxing Association (IBA), which has been going on for several years, is going through a new phase. The IOC appears to have completely excluded the previously derecognized IBA, which is headed by Russian Umar Kremlev, one of the most prominent critics of the parent structure's actions, from among potential partners, calling on national Olympic committees and national boxing federations to create an alternative to it by 2025. There has already been an attempt to form it, however, in the form of an organization called World Boxing. But during the year of its existence, it did not achieve truly serious success, uniting only about 30 countries, even though some of the leaders of the genre were among them.

On the official website of the International Olympic Committee appeared statement, dedicated to the situation in world boxing. In it, the IOC reminds that one of the “classical”, “root” sports is still not formally included in the program of the Los Angeles Olympics, which will take place in 2028, and makes it clear that its inclusion in it is under consideration. threat. The document points to the only “cure”, as its authors put it, that can save the Olympic future of boxing. It consists in creating a new international federation that meets the “conditions” of the IOC. The structure called on national Olympic committees and national boxing federations to ensure its formation by “early 2025.”

The statement is a continuation of the long-standing conflict between the IOC and the International Boxing Association, which eventually became so acute that it became more like a real war.

The two organizations have been in a state of confrontation since the end of the last decade. It was born in the wake of a deep and multi-layered crisis in the IBA that came into the public sphere shortly after the 2016 Rio Olympics. It had sports, administrative, and financial components.

Against the backdrop of this crisis, the IBA, which had accumulated large debts and acquired a long trail of high-profile judicial scandals, in 2017 forced the Taiwanese Wu Jingguo, who had led it for more than ten years, to leave the federation, and after that for a long time tried to find a worthy replacement for him. The IOC was not satisfied with either the functionaries who were trying to gain a foothold in the presidential post, or the ways out of the crisis they proposed. Ultimately, in 2019, the IOC withdrew recognition from the federation for the first time, taking away its right to control Olympic tournaments and qualifications for them.

It seemed that relations should improve after the election of Russian Umar Kremlev as IBA president in 2020. Under Mr. Kremlev, the federation got rid of debt (its new financial capabilities made it possible to increase payments to world championship winners to a previously incredible amount of $200 thousand, with a five-fold increase in medium-term plans) and carried out a reform of refereeing, radically reducing the number of scandals. But the IOC did not soften its position; on the contrary, it rather became even tougher. He constantly made complaints to the IBA on various occasions. They were associated with the excessive, in his opinion, dependence of the federation on the sponsorship contract with Gazprom, which contributed to its financial recovery, the nuances of the presidential elections, as a result of which Umar Kremlev retained his post, and, in principle, the policies of the structure, which sometimes ran counter to the wishes of the IOC.

A particularly noticeable manifestation of boxing “frontism” was the IBA’s abolition in the fall of 2022 of the ban on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions, contrary to the “isolation” recommendations in force at that time.

All this resulted in a boycott of the men's and women's world championships, held in the spring of 2023, by almost two dozen countries, the exchange of many harsh statements and documents between the conflicting parties, sustained in approximately the same style of rhetoric, and a little later - the exclusion of the rebellious federation from the membership IOC. Actually, the reason for his fresh statement was the just published verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). He rejected the IBA's appeal against the IOC's decision, finding that the federation did not meet the conditions necessary for recognition. According to CAS, it did not, say, increase “financial transparency” or ensure control of “judicial integrity”.

The IBA's reaction to this decision was quite predictable. In her statement, she emphasized that CAS, following the IOC, “ignored” all its initiatives and reforms. And this despite the fact that, as the federation assures, it was not even provided with a clear “road map” that could clarify which, from the point of view of Olympic functionaries, are priorities.

The IBA also lists its achievements in reform. This is the amended constitution, that is, the charter, the federations, the emergence of the Boxing Independent Integrity Unit (BIIU) - an independent body monitoring its compliance, the “cleaning” of the judiciary, including with the help of the recommendations of Professor Richard McLaren (this expert became widely known in his work investigation of the Russian “doping crisis”), and the elimination of “multi-million dollar” debts with the acquisition of “complete independence” from Olympic revenues. According to the IBA, current events only confirm the “bias” against her. Moreover, the federation did not even escape the fact that IOC President Thomas Bach, whom the statement called a functionary “driven by personal and purely political motives,” managed to declare victory in the highest arbitration court even before the publication of the verdict.

The IBA warned it would refrain from further comment until its lawyers had “thoroughly” reviewed the CAS findings.

This analysis is needed for the federation to decide on the advisability of another appeal - this time to the Federal Court of Switzerland.

The interesting thing about the IOC's call for a new boxing federation is that a formal alternative to the IBA already exists. We are talking about an organization called World Boxing, launched exactly a year ago by representatives of states that initiated a split in the boxing community and boycotted the world championships. However, it is not mentioned in the IOC document.

World Boxing, in fact, has not achieved any truly noticeable success in the few months of its existence. The calendar of international competitions published on its official website looks much more modest than the one guaranteed by the IBA, and the quality of the composition of its tournaments is questionable. The fact is that at the moment only about three dozen national federations have joined World Boxing. Some of them, however, represent countries that play leading roles in boxing - the USA, Great Britain, Germany. However, the lion's share of leaders, despite the IOC sanctions, prefer to remain faithful to the IBA and compete in its competitions.

Alexey Dospehov

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