BERLIN (Reuters) – The International Boxing Association’s (IBA) financial dependence on Russian energy firm Gazprom, and slow-moving reforms are a grave concern for the International Olympic Committee as the sport struggles to keeps its Olympic spot.
The IOC has taken away from the IBA the qualification tournaments and the competitions at the Paris 2024 Olympics after also stripping the boxing body in 2019 of its involvement in last year’s Tokyo Olympics due to governance, finance, refereeing and ethical issues.
The IBA had to overhaul refereeing following the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and a bout manipulation system which existed there. Boxing has not been included in the initial programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
“On the financial side according to the information we have in the report we received last night the IBA has not yet any new sources of revenue,” IOC sports director Kit McConnell told a news conference on Thursday.
“Dependency continues on the Russian company Gazprom. This has only been exacerbated, worsened by the fact that a number of the bank accounts (used by the IBA) are subject to sanctions in the current environment.
“There has been no mitigation on that reliance on one organisation,” he said.
The Russian energy company is the biggest sponsor of the IBA, formerly known as AIBA.
European governments have accused Moscow of using energy as blackmail, in retaliation for Western support for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion. Russian gas giant Gazprom GAZP.MM has blamed the cuts on Western sanctions and technical issues.
IBA President Umar Kremlev, a Russian businessman, was re-elected unopposed following the disqualification of his only opponent, Boris van der Vorst, two days before the vote in Istanbul on May 14.
Van der Vorst, however, has since been vindicated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, adding to the governance turmoil within the body.
The IOC said apart from the ongoing governance issues, more and more powers were passed to the IBA president’s office now located in Moscow, instead of boosting the sport’s headquarters in Lausanne.
McConnell said the IBA headquarters had been “stripped” of senior officials and advisors.
It warned the body that it risked missing out on the Games permanently if there was no quick progress in the reform plan agreed last year.
“Boxing is currently not included in the sports programme of the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028,” the IOC said in a letter on Thursday sent to the IBA president.
“Considering the absence of a real evolution, the IOC Executive Board is not in a position to reverse this decision and will continue to monitor with grave concerns IBA’s governance.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)