AFTER Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has called for international sports federations and sports event organisers not to invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.

Where this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC has urged worldwide sport federations or sports organisers to do everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus. Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed, the IOC said.

The Olympic body has also called for sports events planned for Russia and Belarus to be relocated.

IBA, amateur boxing’s world governing body, has already said it will consider rescheduling the Global Boxing Cup, which was planned to be held for June in Russia. IBA added, “Following IOC recommendations regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes, and with a view to suspending these athletes from competition, IBA has convened a meeting of the IBA Board of Directors. The meeting will take place later this week.” They have also announced a few measures of support for the Ukrainian boxing team. The women’s European championships are also scheduled for July in Ulan Ude in Russia and the European Boxing Confederation has yet to issue a statement on this event.

Russia is at the heart of international amateur boxing. The president of IBA is Umar Kremlev [pictured above], a Russian and the former secretary general of the Russian boxing federation. Gazprom, the Russian state controlled energy company, is a major sponsor of IBA. Gazprom has been heavily involved in sport but other organisations are withdrawing from those deals. UEFA for instance has ended its deal with Gazprom already.

At the time of writing, IBA didn’t have plans to remove Gazprom as a general partner. “IBA remains deeply concerned by the conflict in Ukraine and will continue to monitor it carefully,” the IBA told Inside the Games. “IBA’s current commercial agreements remain in place.”

Its relationship with Gazprom had already been questioned by the IOC, concerned IBA would be too dependent on the entity for its revenue.

This situation is developing but it will be difficult for boxing if IBA remains outside the mainstream of the Olympic movement. Boxing has been left off the programme for the 2028 Olympic Games, with questions still needing to be resolved on how IBA will address corruption and its financing.

IBA has to follow a pathway to bring boxing back into the Olympic Games. The election of officials and for a streamlined board of directors at an Electoral Congress at the women’s World championships in Turkey this May will be pivotal, and there is a deadline for IBA to successfully reform. The IOC will be judging whether IBA has met its criteria for good governance in 2023.