Boxing-Complaint filed against countries boycotting world championships

FILE PHOTO: International Boxing Association (AIBA) President Umar Kremlev attends a news conference ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland June 28, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

(Reuters) - The International Boxing Association (IBA) has opened disciplinary proceedings against several countries over their planned boycott of amateur world championships due to the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian boxers.

The IBA lifted a ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers competing under their flags last October, against the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) guidance following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.

Belarus allowed its territory to be used for the invasion.

The action of the IBA, which is headed by a Russian, Umar Kremlev, targets USA Boxing CEO Mike McAtee, President of Boxing Canada Ryan O'Shea, Czech Boxing Association President Marek Simak, Swedish Boxing Association Chairman Per-Axel Sjoholm and Boxing New Zealand President Steve Hartley.

"In boxing, there is no place for any form of discrimination, and IBA sees it as its mission to protect its values," the governing body said in a statement on Wednesday, adding the countries had violated articles of its ethics code.

The code states that any official who "incites a boycott of a competition or withdraws from a competition without a valid reason" is subject to a suspension of up to four years from all boxing activities.

"Moreover, the IBA will defend its integrity and reputation and will not let any individuals damage it through their unethical behaviour," the statement said.

A total of 11 countries are boycotting the championships and they also include Ireland, Britain, Poland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway.

The boycotting nations have said they will not take part in the women's championship, due to be held in New Delhi from March 15, or in the men's championship in Tashkent from May 1.

Last month, Ukraine's boxing federation (FBU) joined the boycott and its vice president Oleg Ilchenko said their boxers would also boycott next year's Olympic Games in Paris if Russian and Belarusian boxers were present.

The IBA has been at loggerheads with the boycotting nations especially after it announced last month that its world championships would be qualifiers for the 2024 Olympics.

That claim was refuted by McAtee who described the IBA as "incompetent" and said the announcement was "totally unacceptable" as the IOC organises the qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Games.

The IBA was suspended by the IOC in 2019 and stripped of involvement in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to governance, finance, refereeing and ethical issues.

The IOC also removed the IBA from the Paris qualification process as a result. Boxing is not on the initial programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Games, pending reforms.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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