Russia, Belarus boxers should compete, IBA president says

Russia and Belarus athletes should be able to compete under their flag, International Boxing Association president Umar Kremlev said Friday.

The IBA lifted a ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October, against the International Olympic Committee's guidance following Russia's invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022.

"They should participate. It should not be some kind of privilege that is given depending on the circumstances. Each international association should have these standards," Kremlev told Reuters. "We, as an international association, must protect each athlete. And we must understand that for athletes the most important thing is when the anthem plays and when their country's flag is raised.

"The IOC can give recommendations. Their charter clearly says that it is impossible to punish the athlete or to infringe on his rights."

The IBA has opened disciplinary proceedings against 11 countries over their planned boycott of the world championships due to the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian boxers.

The disciplinary actions target USA Boxing CEO Mike McAtee, Boxing Canada president Ryan O'Shea, Czech Boxing Association president Marek Simak, Swedish Boxing Association chairman Per-Axel Sjoholm and Boxing New Zealand president Steve Hartley.

"We have a clear regulation regarding this. If someone plans to boycott or something like that, they will face a disciplinary committee," Kremlev said. "No sports official has the right to set the athlete's [country] borders. If you [condemn the war], then you can participate."

Last year, the IOC raised the possibility of excluding boxing from the 2024 Paris Olympics. The IBA was stripped of its participation in the Tokyo Olympics, and boxing is not on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

"Scaring the IBA and the boxing family in general with the threat that boxing could be excluded -- if that happened, the Olympics should not see it as just losing boxing, but losing the most beautiful sport," Kremlev said.