The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banished the International Boxing Association (IBA) from its ranks due to its failure to complete reforms on governance, finance and ethical issues.
At a virtual extraordinary IOC Session on Thursday, 69 members voted in favour of exiling the IBA, with only one vote against it. Ten members abstained from the vote.
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The IOC’s decision was inevitable after being recommended two weeks ago by the executive board, a body chaired by IOC President Thomas Bach.
Boxing, however, will keep its status as an Olympic sport at the 2024 Paris Games.
“We highly value the sport of boxing. We have an extremely serious problem with IBA because of their governance,” Bach told IOC members during their online meeting.
The #IOCSession, meeting remotely, has withdrawn the recognition of International Boxing Association (IBA), upon the recommendation of the IOC Executive Board (EB).
Decision is based on the IOC Comprehensive Report on the Situation of the IBA, discussed by the IOC EB on 7 June.
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) June 22, 2023
The dispute focused on the IBA’s management under presidents from Uzbekistan and Russia, whom the IOC disapproved of, its finances being backed by Russian state energy firm Gazprom, plus the integrity of bouts and judging.
“The boxers fully deserve to be governed by an international federation with integrity and transparency,” the IOC president said.
National boxing federations defied IOC warnings in 2018 by electing Gafur Rakhimov as president. The businessman from Uzbekistan allegedly had ties to organised crime and heroin trafficking. Umar Kremlev’s election to replace Rakhimov in 2020 followed another round of IOC election warnings that went unheeded.
The IBA’s debts approaching $20m were cleared under Kremlev, and the IOC objected to the boxing body’s financial reliance on Russia’s Gazprom.
Kremlev announced last month at the men’s world championships that the IBA was no longer sponsored by Gazprom, and his rhetoric against Olympic officials got more confrontational.
The IOC is already overseeing boxing competitions for the Paris Olympics without IBA involvement, as it did for the Tokyo Games in 2021.
It was unclear if boxers representing national federations who stay affiliated with the IBA will be classed as eligible for the Paris competition.
The move means that the sport of boxing can now be confirmed on the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic programme, which the IOC and Bach withheld as leverage against IBA. Boxing is “guaranteed” to be in Los Angeles, members were told Thursday.
With the IBA relationship now ended, the IOC can now start to work with a rival organisation created this year called World Boxing, which has drawn support from officials in the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The IBA, which called Thursday’s decision a “tremendous error”, can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The expulsion was “catastrophic for global boxing and blatantly contradicts the IOC’s claims of acting in the best interests of boxing and athletes”, the Lausanne-based IBA said in a statement.