— Published 6 June 2023

Facing the IOC, the IBA responds fist by fist

Time is running out for Olympic boxing. Having been left out of the program for the Los Angeles 2028 Games, its future is likely to be decided in the coming weeks and months.

The subject is on the agenda for the next meeting of the IOC Executive Board, scheduled for June 20-22 in Lausanne. The question will then be decided at the next session of the Olympic body, in October 2023 in Mumbai, India.

The International Boxing Federation (IBA) knows all about the calendar. It also knows what’s at stake. It has just submitted to the IOC the report requested by the Olympic body in an attempt to resolve its numerous “concerns” on the subjects of governance, finance, ethics and arbitration. To do otherwise would have been suicidal.

Surprisingly, however, the IBA did not content itself with answering the numerous questions listed by the IOC in its document. It accompanied its answers with a volley of criticism, even accusations, against the body chaired by Thomas Bach. The IBA could have kept a low profile. Instead, it went on the offensive.

Reuters obtained the report sent by the IBA to the IOC from an anonymous source close to the matter. It has revealed some of its contents. It is unmistakable.

In essence, the body chaired by the Russian Umar Kremlev asserts that it has carried out, or at least initiated, the reforms required to maintain its place in the Olympic world. But it also accuses the IOC of flouting its rights and multiplying misleading statements about it.

The IBA has done its utmost to address the IOC’s concerns, particularly in the areas of finance, governance and sporting integrity, insists the body in its report. The IBA is convinced that it has successfully met the criteria mentioned in the roadmap.” A good pupil, then.

But the IBA points out in its document that the sanctions imposed on it by the IOC for almost four years are unjustified. And they have no legal basis. “The IBA has not found in the IOC’s correspondence dated April 6, 2023 the slightest link to a specific rule of law that it would have violated and that would justify a potential withdrawal of IOC recognition, other than the simple mention of an alleged refusal to cooperate“, the report suggests.

Clearly, the IBA has not broken any rules. All it would have done is break off dialogue with the IOC. And even then, insists the document revealed by Reuters, its attempts at conciliation were ignored by Lausanne. “Again this year, the IBA repeatedly proposed to enter into dialogue, but all its requests were disrespectfully ignored,” the report states.

Unsurprisingly, the document submitted to the IOC mentions the former president of the International Boxing Federation, then known as AIBA, Taiwan’s CK Wu. The current management blames him for the IBA’s current woes. Better still, they half-heartedly accuse the IOC of having turned a blind eye to his actions.

It must be remembered that CK Wu was an IOC member at the time, insists the report. The IBA cannot take full responsibility for the IOC member’s wrongdoing. But it is hard to believe that the IOC was unaware of the problems of the international federation then headed by one of its members, especially as most of these problems were directly linked to the Olympic Games and their qualifying tournament.

Another issue: finances. As the IBA states in its report, the partnership contract with Russian giant Gazprom, which was singled out by the IOC, is no longer relevant.

Concerns about Gazprom are unfounded as the partnership agreement expired on December 31, 2022 and has not been extended,” the body explains. It continues: “The IBA continues to work on diversifying its revenues. We have significantly increased our revenues from the licensing program, television and marketing rights, and the organization of competitions.

Resolutely offensive, the IBA also accuses the IOC of having contacted some of its judges and referees behind its back, without informing it, to invite them to officiate at qualifying tournaments for the Paris 2024 Games. “The IOC contacted the officials without a prior data-sharing agreement between the two entities,” the report points out.

In conclusion, the IBA warns: the IOC’s decision to withdraw its recognition would be an unjustified, unfair and legally incorrect decision. The soap opera continues.