Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and International Boxing Association (AIBA) President Umar Kremlev (right) tour the newly opened International Boxing center at the Luzhniki Sports Complex in Moscow, September 10, 2022. (Photo: Gavriil Grigorov / SPUTNIK / AFP)

The International Boxing Federation (IBA) has demanded that Russian and Belarusian athletes, banned by most organizations since the invasion of Ukraine in February, be allowed to return to international competitions.

The first institution to make such a call, the IBA has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 2019 due to numerous corruption scandals and is at risk of disappearing as an Olympic sport after Paris 2024.

“Sport is outside politics: politics ends where it begins,” Umar Kremlev, the head of the IBA in Russia, said in a statement released by the federation on Friday. Boxing did not prevent Russians and Belarusians from competitions.

“It is now time to allow all the remaining athletes of Russia and Belarus to represent their countries in all official competitions of their sport,” he continued.

“Both the IOC and the International Federations should protect all athletes and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is our duty to keep sports and athletes away from politics.”

In a sign of its political neutrality, the IBA said Ukrainian boxers could qualify for the European Junior Championships in Italy until October 5, after suspending the Ukrainian Boxing Federation on Sunday for controversial reasons.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra on Friday, IOC President Thomas Bach insisted that the recommendations made at the end of February “remain the same for now”.

He pointed out that the decision to exclude Russian athletes was taken “for their safety” and to protect “the autonomy of sport” from governments.

Since spring, the IOC has indicated that it will “step by step” reconsider its recommendations for Russians and Belarusians amid questions about their participation in the 2024 Olympics.

Football bodies FIFA and UEFA removed Russian teams and clubs from their competitions, and the national team was banned from the 2022 World Cup and Euro 2024 qualifiers to be held in Qatar.

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