Boxing-Russia and Belarus boxers should compete, IBA president says

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) - Russia and Belarus athletes should be able to compete under their flag, said International Boxing Association (IBA) President Umar Kremlev on Friday.

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

"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 a total of 11 countries over their planned boycott of the world championships due to the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian boxers.

Kremlev disciplinary actions 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.

"We have a clear regulation regarding this. If someone plans to boycott or something like that, they will face a disciplinary committee," Kremlev added.

"No sports official has the right to set the athlete's (country) borders. If you do that (condemn the war), then you can participate."

Last year, the IOC raised the possibility of excluding boxing from the Paris 2024 Games. The IBA was stripped of its participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and boxing is not on the initial programme for the Los Angeles 2028 Games, pending IOC-mandated reforms.

"Without us, the IBA would no longer do boxing. And 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.

(Reporting by Angelica Medina and Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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