Boxing has moved closer to being thrown out of the Olympics for good after the embattled federation governing the amateur discipline re-elected its incumbent Russian president unopposed following the controversial decision to ban his only rival from standing against him on the eve of the vote.
The International Boxing Association election had been scheduled for Friday but was pushed back by 24 hours to allow the Court of Arbitration for Sport to rule on the appeal from Dutch candidate Boris van der Vorst, who was sensationally barred from challenging Umar Kremlev by an interim nominations panel.
The CAS dismissed Van der Vorst’s urgent attempt to block the vote on Friday night and Kremlev, IBA president since December 2020, was officially re-elected for a four-year term at an extraordinary congress in Istanbul on Saturday – an outcome that plunges boxing’s Olympic future further into doubt.
Boxing has not had its place confirmed on the programme for Paris 2024 and has been left off the schedule for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.
The popular sport featured at last year’s postponed Olympics in Tokyo but the competition was run by the International Olympic Committee, which suspended the IBA over issues with its governance, finances and refereeing and judging.
The IOC has been keeping a close eye on developments regarding the IBA election after Van der Vorst was deemed ineligible because of his involvement in an alliance that had criticised the organisation for its response to the Ukraine war and being bankrolled by Russian state-owned company Gazprom.
Russia’s Umar Kremlev was re-elected president of the International Boxing Association after running unopposed
Kremlev (centre), IBA president since December 2020, was officially re-elected for a four-year term at an extraordinary congress in Istanbul on Saturday
Concerns at the IOC, the most powerful body in world sport, are thought to have grown following the process that led to Kremlev’s re-election to the top job at the troubled IBA. A spokesperson told Sportsmail that it was ‘monitoring the developments at the IBA very closely’.
The IOC has previously taken the rare step of publicly admitting that it has issues with Kremlev running the IBA, which is suspended as the Olympic governing body for the sport.
It has also issued the IBA with warnings over its Gazprom deal, which remains in place despite other sporting organisations and clubs – such as UEFA and Schalke – ditching their deals with the Kremlin-sponsored group in response to the Ukraine war.
A decision on boxing’s spot at Paris 2024 next year, and there are growing fears that it will not reinstated and could be chucked out permanently.
Amateur boxing has been in crisis for years due to the issues at the governing body
Kremlev’s impending re-election had come under scrutiny even before the meeting in Istanbul. Sportsmail revealed earlier this week that question marks had been raised over Kremlev being able to stand in the first place given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent bloodshed in the country.
Kremlev is known to Vladimir Putin and is on speaking terms with the Russian president.
Video footage taken at the 2019 European Games in Minsk shows the two in relaxed conversation outside one of the venues for the event.
Russian boxers are banned from competing at IBA events due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion
‘Of course, he should not be there,’ a source close to the IBA executive committee said. ‘Every Russian official who is holding a high position should, at the very least, step back temporarily.’
While Russian and Belarusian boxers are currently banned from competing at IBA events in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, there remain concerns with the lack of action taken by the IBA in regard to Kremlev’s position and the Gazprom agreement.
Controversy surrounding the election is the latest crisis for the IBA, which is still reeling from the corruption and bout-rigging scandal in the Olympic boxing tournament at Rio 2016. Dozens of officials were found to have fixed fights at the games in the Brazilian city and for five years after the event.
CORRUPTION IN OLYMPIC BOXING
The Rio 2016 boxing tournament was blighted by a corruption and bout-rigging scandal, detailed in extensive reports from Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.
All 36 referees and judges who officiated at Rio 2016 were stood down amid the allegations, leading to McLaren launching an investigation.
McLaren has conducted an exhaustive study of events around Rio 2016 and catalogued how fights were rigged.
He found evidence of bribes, with money stuffed into toothpaste tubes, demands for $100,000 and threatening late-night visits to the hotel room of a boxing judge, who refused to join in with the corruption.
But it did not stop there. At least five competitions were marred by attempts to fix fights right up to July of last year, McLaren revealed.
The third and final installment of the report from the Canadian, whose findings into the Russian state-sponsored doping programme, is due to be published on June 22.
Concerns over refereeing and judging in the sport were among the reasons for the IOC suspending the Olympic recognition of the IBA, which prevented it from having any role in the boxing tournament at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The competition in Tokyo was run by an IOC task force and the suspension could also ban the IBA from involvement in the Paris 2024 Games, while boxing’s place on the programme for Los Angeles 2028 remains conditional.