Amateur boxing’s world governing body is preparing for a presidential vote in Armenia on Sunday with opponents of Russian incumbent Umar Kremlev warning that the sport’s Olympic future beyond 2024 is at stake.
USA Boxing executive director Mike McAtee told Reuters the International Boxing Association (IBA), already frozen out by Olympic organizers, faced an existential threat at the extraordinary congress. Kremlev, who this month opened a boxing facility in Moscow with Russian president Vladimir Putin, was elected unopposed in Istanbul in May after Dutch rival Boris van der Vorst was declared ineligible two days before the vote.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled last June that van der Vorst was wrongly prevented from standing. The agenda for Sunday includes a yes/no vote by national federations on the question ‘Do you want to vote for another presidential election or not?’. If yes, it will be Kremlin against van der Vorst.
“It will be the end of IBA if we do not have an election, considering CAS ruled that we were all wrongfully removed and Boris was wrongfully removed,” McAtee told Reuters by telephone from Yerevan. “It is my belief that if there is not an election, IBA will be permanently suspended or just removed by the IOC (International Olympic Committee).”
McAtee, who is an ally of van der Vorst and was also declared ineligible in May when he stood for the IBA board, said boxing could not hope to be at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics without a change at the helm. “The IOC, if you look at their letters, are very clear that if candidate Kremlev wins, IBA will be removed,” he said.
“Without being in the Olympics it will cut funding for every national federation and impact boxing all the way down to eight year old boxers in every country in the world. That’s how important it is to our sport.” SLOW-MOVING REFORMS
Boxing is not on the initial program for 2028 and the IOC is managing the Paris 2024 competition. IBA, formerly known as AIBA, was stripped of involvement in last year’s Tokyo Olympics due to governance, finance, refereeing and ethical issues.
IOC sports director Kit McConnell said this month that slow-moving reforms and IBA’s financial dependence on Russian energy firm Gazprom were of grave concern. Amid allegations of dirty tricks, USA Boxing filed a whistleblower complaint on Sept. 8 regarding a perceived attempt by an IBA employee to influence Sunday’s vote in Kremlev’s favor.
IBA said Kremlev had been cleared of all charges by the Boxing Independent Integrity Unit. McAtee said a legal challenge could not be ruled out if Kremlin remained in office.
“There are several points that can be contested in court and we are keeping all our options open,” he said. The Ukrainian Boxing Federation could be a case in point after it said it had been deprived of the right to participate in the congress.
“Why did they allow the registration of individuals that have no relation to the Ukrainian Boxing Federation to take part (in the congress) … and vote on our behalf?,” federation president Kyrylo Shevchenko asked IBA members in a letter. The document, seen by Reuters, called for Kremlin to resign immediately or for national federations to vote him out of office.
The IBA does not recognize Shevchenko but instead considers his predecessor Volodymyr Prodyvus, an ally of Kremlev who left Ukraine after the Russian invasion and was elected as IBA vice-president in May, as head of the federation.
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