Boxing-Dutch boxer defies boycott to compete in Delhi championship

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Megan de Cler's participation in the ongoing women's boxing world championships, defying a boycott by the Dutch federation, and the withdrawal of Kosovo's Donjeta Sadiku have added to controversy at the event in New Delhi.

The Netherlands is among the 11 nations boycotting the event in protest at the presence of Russian and Belarusian boxers among the 300-odd participants from 65 countries.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Dutch boxing chief Boris Van der Vorst was wrongly prevented from running in the International Boxing Association's (IBA) presidential election last year when Russian Umar Kremlev was re-elected unopposed.

De Cler was seen holding an IBA flag in Wednesday's opening ceremony and did not wear her national colours.

The IBA, which has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the boycotting nations, has extended a Financial Support Program (FSP) to encourage boxers from those countries to compete in New Delhi.

"Megan de Cler and her coach expressed the wish to be participating as an individual athlete under a neutral flag but under the name of the Netherlands, and IBA honoured this request," the governing body said in a statement to Reuters on Friday.

A six-member contingent from New Zealand are also in Delhi for the event even though their national federation would rather they were not.

"It demonstrates that the athletes are not part of these political decisions and their main goal is to compete against the best," the IBA said.

"The IBA offered its support to these boxers through FSP... The boxers are at the heart of the IBA, and we will not allow them to be harmed."

The International Olympic Committee suspended the IBA in 2019 over governance issues and did not involve it in running the boxing events at the Tokyo Olympics.

The event has also been hit by a diplomatic dispute after Sadiku refused to compete as a neutral athlete under the IBA flag in India, which does not recognise Kosovo as an independent nation.

The IBA said the organisers "did their utmost to create the conditions for Kosovo athletes to participate" and secure their visas.

"It was unfortunate to learn that the athletes of Kosovo declined the opportunity to come to New Delhi," the IBA said in a statement.

"IBA always stands for the athletes' right to represent their national symbols but cannot influence the diplomatic relationships between countries."

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani has called Sadiku's treatment "a blatant violation of international sporting standards".

(This story has been refiled to remove incorrect reference to six-member Dutch contingent in paragraph 7 and to add details of New Zealand participation)

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Toby Davis)

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