IBA offers support to boxers whose National Federations boycott to take part in IBA’s 2023 Women’s and Men’s World Championships and will pursue strong sanctions against participating officials
February 10th, 2023 / IBA
It is with great disappointment that IBA reads the statement this week from USA Boxing later followed by the statement from the Irish Athletics Boxing Association, according to which it confirmed its non-participation in our upcoming 2023 IBA World Men and Women Championships. These public statements are truly regretful, as they unreasonably damage the reputation of their international governing body as it directly contravenes many articles of the IBA Disciplinary and Ethics Code, and above all, it damages the reputation of IBA, as it is based on defamatory half truths, which is unacceptable.
While IBA has been making great strides in implementing reforms and cultivating a new culture within the sport. This attack on IBA, cannot be seen as anything other than a clear act to damage IBA’s reputation and breach the values IBA professes while failing to acknowledge the tremendous work done by IBA and supporting the governing body in its efforts and best intentions.
IBA will support any athlete that wants to participate in the World Championships, to allow them to fulfil their dream of becoming a World Champion. We will protect our athletes, coaches, and the IBA Constitution.
Speaking at the Press Conference before the finals of the World Boxing Tour event, Golden Belt Series tournament in Marrakesh, Morocco, IBA President Umar Kremlev stressed that the national team of the USA shouldn’t struggle because of the decision of the administration.
“This decision doesn’t belong to the athletes themselves. Not one of the sports administrators or politicians in the world is entitled to deprive athletes of their dream to become World Champions. Boxers dedicate their whole life to the sport, while administrators and politicians come to and go. Those, who are doing this to our athletes, are worse than hyenas and jackals, they violate the integrity of sport and culture. I urge all my colleagues to clear their organizations of such hyenas, as I can’t call them another way. IBA will do its utmost to help athletes from the USA to come and participate in the World Boxing Championships and will assist them, including financially. For this, we have our Financial Support Programme. We will fight for each and every country to give them a chance to participate in our tournaments representing their flag and anthem. For those administrators and politicians who are deciding for the athletes, shouldn’t be involved in the sport,’ President Kremlev said.
IBA will take the opportunity to provide a fact-based response to the continued misrepresentation of the situation with IBA by USA Boxing later joined by the Irish Athletics Boxing Association.
1) USA Boxing Statement – President Kremlev was denied a waiver for entry into the United States in 2021 by the US Customers and Border Protection, while others from his delegation were approved.
IBA Response – This is a personal issue, which, one, cannot be disclosed without consent of a person and such disclosure constitutes a breach of GDPR laws, two, has no relation to IBA governance.
2) USA Boxing Statement – Governance Reform Group (GRG) and Professor Ulrich Haas saw their contract expire without full implementation of their recommendations.
IBA has contradicted Haas’s recommendations by terminating key positions at administrative offices in Lausanne and increasing role of the IBA Presidential office in Moscow.
According to IOC Sports Director, Kit McConnell, there is “no operating boxing independent integrity unit” and “no comprehensive background checks” on the candidates for elections.
IBA Response – The USA Boxing does not mention who are the “key position(s)” they referred to, but we can only think of one person, the former Secretary General. In regard to Mr Istvan Kovacs, we cannot disclose the reasons of termination of his employment contract. However, it is necessary to mention that, according to the recommendations that the McLaren’s Independent Investigation Team (MIIT) made in its Final Stage Report, “the office administration and sport management by the staff of the IBA needs improvement in responding to rule changes or amendments.” (para. v, page 106 of the MIIT Final Stage Report).
In addition, a Moscow office of the IBA does not or has never existed. Moreover, the termination or expiration of the agreements of some external advisers with whom IBA cooperated cannot be considered as the “key positions at administrative offices in Lausanne” as well as the termination of other employment contracts at the IBA Head Office.
The Boxing Integrity Unit (BIIU) is in the process of being established, and for such an important institution to be established properly, it takes more time than a couple of months. With that said, IBA will continue toimplement its plan step by step to establish a BIIU.
In conclusion, a comprehensive background check for all candidates were conducted by the Interim Nomination Unit with in-depth support of the Independent Vetting Firm – Genius Sport.
3) USA Boxing Statement – The appointment of Vice President Abdulmutalim Abakarov raises additional concerns about lack of transparency from IBA leadership and falls outside best governance practices.
IBA Response – Vice President Abdulmutalim Abakarov was appointed in accordance with the recently approved IBA Constitution. IBA cannot accept groundless concerns from the media without any proof and legal grounds provided in support of these concerns.
4) USA Boxing Statement – Failure to hold a fair and transparent Presidential election in 2022, despite CAS ruling.
IBA Response – IBA fully complied with the ruling of the CAS Award, whose operative part was issued on 14 June 2022. In its ruling, the CAS Award did not order IBA to conduct new elections. Despite that, at the Extraordinary Congress on 25 September 2022 in Yerevan, the National Federations had the option to vote for another presidential election. The response was clear, 106 National Federations (representing 74.65% of the quorum) voted against new elections, fully supporting the current IBA President.
5) USA Boxing Statement – Failure to address the drastic change of culture requested by the IOC in order to lift suspension of IBA’s recognition.
IBA Response – The GRG Report of 25 August 2022 stated: “Good governance” is not only a legal matter, but above all a cultural condition that grows over time. It needs to be constantly evaluated and nurtured through continuous training and refreshing of the leadership. The GRG therefore recommended creating a climate in which such growth is possible and encouraged, the best minds are recruited, and decision-making processes are optimised and sufficiently legitimised. While the GRG acknowledges that certain improvements have been made in this regard, it is still of vital importance for the future of IBA that the governance culture is continuously improved.
6) USA Boxing Statement – At the December 2022 IBA Congress in Dubai, IBA President Umar Kremlev said, “I want to stress that not a single boxer, coach or National Federation will be participating in the Olympic Games without IBA” despite IBA’s suspension of Olympic recognition. The IOC responded with a December 2022 statement that “The recent IBA Congress has shown once more that IBA has no real interest in the sport of boxing and the boxers but is only interested in its own power. The decisions and discussions to keep boxers away from the Olympic qualifiers and Olympic Games cannot be understood differently.”
IBA Response – IBA firmly contests the IOC statement. IBA has demonstrated and keep demonstrating how it cares about the sport of boxing and the athletes. It is proven by our numerous actions, and not words. On the contrary, it is hard to accept that a National Federation really cares about its boxers when it prevents its athletes to participate in the World Championships, the most prestigious boxing events together with the Olympics, due to political games of its leadership.
FIELD OF PLAY
1) USA Boxing Statement – Failure to consistently require or implement independent oversight of the FOP, which was previously and successfully used in Tokyo and the 2021 IBA Men’s World Championships with the involvement of PwC but was not used at the 2022 IBA Women’s World Championships or Youth World Championships
IBA Response – The FOP has seen continuous improvements since 2021, with the joint working partnership that we have with McLaren. Both the Women’s World Championships in Turkey, and the Youth World Championships in Spain, saw the presence of the McLaren Team within the FOP for the complete duration of both competitions. We also employed the full range of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Assessments, along with follow up interviews. All Technical Officials are subject to pre-appointment checks, AI and follow up interviews. The system is far more robust now that it has ever been and recognised by the IOC as being best practice in the integrity space.
2) USA Boxing Statement – While minutes from the June 2022 IBA Board of Directors’ Meeting confirmed that a MIIT Report on the investigation of EUBC Championships in Armenia, where National Federations protested against R&Js decisions (and as a result, EUBC excluded some R&Js) would be delivered by August 31, such a report has yet to be delivered to all Directors. This reinforces a lack of faith in IBA’s transparency and oversight of field of play.
IBA Response – This is simply not true, as the minutes of the IBA Board of Directors Meeting that took place 5 November 2022 have been published and made available on the IBA website in early December 2022.
In particular, the IBA Legal Counsel summarized the key findings of the MIIT Report into the EUBC Men’s Elite Championships that took place in Yerevan, Armenia on May 21 – 31, 2022, along with administrative/regulatory and disciplinary recommendations made by Prof. McLaren.
The Report itself was not published because it is under pending proceedings before the BIIU. Therefore, any possibility of making such a document public before the end of the pending proceedings could jeopardize them as well as the Officials’ reputation mentioned therein before a final and binding decision is taken.
3) USA Boxing Statement – No public announcements identifying any action or sanctions towards those identified in the IBA-commissioned McLaren reports (aside from prior IBA President Ching-Kuo Wu), including those who are still actively involved in officiating and officials’ management.
IBA Response – All persons identified by Prof. McLaren in his reports were included into the database, which is used in vetting of the candidates for any IBA position and in vetting of the Competitions Officials for IBA tournaments. These people cannot be elected to any position in IBA or to take part in the competitions as an IBA Competition Official.
For the sake of completeness, disciplinary sanctions against these people are not possible because of the statute of limitation period, which was only 3 (three) years according to the old AIBA Disciplinary Code.
4) USA Boxing Statement – At the 2022 IBA Youth Championships, IBA failed to adhere to its own Published Technical Officials’ Selection Process, which required that the selection of R&J’s exhibit a continental and NF balance. These selection processes also required that “Seven (7) R&Js will be selected from each continent to allow confederate parity (where possible), particularly with the use of two rings.” A disproportionate amount of European R&J’s were selected, as fewer than 7 R&Js were selected from both AMBC and ASBC. Not a single R&J from USA was selected.
IBA Response – Whilst we note the comments regarding continental and NF balance, we are also subject to officials being available, along with both quality, and those who have already been subject to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Assessments. Officials are selected on this basis, with another added layer of assurance, along with the random draw element. It is not guaranteed that a USA R&J will be drawn, nor will it be the case for any other National Federation.
FINANCIAL IRREGULARITIES AND TRANSPARENCY
1) USA Boxing Statement – Despite repeated concerns expressed by the IOC and promises by IBA leadership to diversify its revenue sources, IBA continues to remain financially dependent on the Russian state-owned energy company, Gazprom (and/or Gazprom subsidiaries such as Gazprombank and Gazprom Neft), which has been sanctioned by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, and others.
There is material risk of violating US government sanctions by receiving IBA prize money.
IBA Response – The Gazprom sponsorship deal with IBA expired as of 31 December 2022 and IBA currently does not have a sponsorship deal with Gazprom. That being said, there are no sanctions on Gazprom, and nothing legally prevents IBA to cooperate with Gazprom. In addition, IBA has no relations with Gazprombank and Gazprom Neft.
This statement around IBA prize money violating USA government sanctions is purely speculation without any legal grounds.
2) USA Boxing Statement – IBA’s highly publicized ‘prize money’ is not considered in the approved IBA budget and does not have a transparent origin. Prize money for gold medallists at the upcoming Women’s World Championships is 50% ($100,000) of the published Men’s World Championship gold medal prize money ($200,000), demonstrating a lack of equality.
IBA Response – According to the approved budget, IBA expenses are supported by its incomes, hosting fees, multiple sponsorship deals, license agreements, and revenues from TV rights which are allocated to those who generate them. For the sake of clarity, the prize money granted to the Women’s World Championships remains the same as the past edition. Is it the prize money for the Men’s World Championships the one that has increased due to the above-mentioned reasons.
3) USA Boxing Statement – The IBA Audit and Finance Committees submitted their resignation immediately before the eve of the 2022 IBA Ordinary Congress in UAE.
IBA Response – Despite the sabotage and resistance from several persons, including ex-employees and committee members, IBA was able to prepare an audited report and presented it to the Congress, which approved it.
Now IBA is in the process to hire professional experts to the Audit and Finance Committees who will perform their duties and will not be politically motivated.
4) USA Boxing Statement – As of February 3, 2023, there is no publicly available Report of the Statutory/Independent Auditor for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, raising concerns about transparency of financial information
IBA Response – This is again false; the audited report was published immediately after the congress:
1) USA Boxing Statement – IOC reaffirmed sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments as recently as February 2, 2023. Such sanctions include:
No flag, anthem, colours, or any identifications of these countries being displayed at any sports event or meeting.
Russian athletes have competed under their own flag at IBA’s Golden Belt Series event in Marrakech, Morocco in 2023, and Russian and Belarusian athletes are expected to compete at IBA World Championships under their own flag.
While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023. Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.
IBA Response – In this point, IBA reaffirms its commitment and condemns any form of discrimination which is prohibited in accordance with Article 4 of the IBA Constitution as well as under the Olympic Charter, and believes that the athletes cannot be responsible for the conduct of the politics from their countries.
According to Article 17.1(m) of the IBA Constitution, it is the power of the IBA Congress “on exceptional circumstances to decide the participation in the Competitions of the Boxers affiliated to a National Federation in neutral status; to decide not to invite to the Boxers affiliated to a National Federation to the Competitions…”.
At this moment there is not any decision of the IBA Congress not to invite the Boxers from Russia or to invite them in neutral status, and the decision of the Board of Directors of 4 March 2022 in respect of the Russian and Belarus Boxers was canceled on 5 October 2022. There are not any restrictions for the Boxers affiliated to the Russian Boxing Federation to participate in the Competitions.
IBA will request that the McLaren Independent Investigation Team (MIIT) which performs duties of the BIIU investigators to investigate the statement of USA Boxing Executive Director/CEO Mr. Mike McAtee and the leadership of the Irish Athletics Boxing Association whether there is a breach of the following articles of the IBA Disciplinary and Ethics Code, amongst others:
- Disparagement of IBA’s Reputation and Interests
- Inciting a Boycott of a Competition
- Refusal or Late Participation in Competition
- Neutrality and Loyalty
- Discrimination and Defamation outside Competition
The athletes, coaches and officials from a country shall not be liable for any conduct of the management of their national federations or any political games. IBA condemns all political games which damages the sport.
IBA invites USA and Irish teams to come to the World Championships and participate under their flags and anthems. IBA will cover all necessary expenses from the funds of the FSP Program.
IBA will strongly react on further similar conduct in breach of the IBA Disciplinary and Ethics Code, and will pursue strong sanctions against those who initiate and join the participation boycott.