USA, Canada, Great Britain to skip IBA World Championships over governance, fairness concerns
A growing number of countries have withdrawn from this year’s IBA World Championships amid concerns about the organization’s ability to adhere to the International Olympic Committee’s standards and fairness of the competitions.
Canada, Sweden and the Czech Republic on Tuesday became the latest countries to step away from participation from the Men’s and Women’s Boxing Championships, following similar decisions by the United States and Ireland earlier this month. Great Britain also announced that they will not participate in the Women’s Championships, which are scheduled for next month in India, and says they are considering a similar decision for the Men’s tournament, which is set for May in Uzbekistan.
The decisions come as the latest blows to the International Boxing Association, the international amateur boxing federation formerly known as AIBA, which had been excluded from the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and the Paris Olympics next year. The IOC first voted to withdraw recognition of IBA in June of 2019 after concerns about the fairness of its officiating, plus financial stability and responsible governance.
The IOC expressed “grave concerns” with the IBA once again in a letter to the organization last September, citing their “financial dependency” on Gazprom, a Russian state-owned energy company.
In a statement earlier this week, GB Boxing voiced concerns over the IBA’s move to allow boxers from Russia and Belarus to compete under the national flags, which defies the IOC’s resolution following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. IBA has been led since 2020 by Umar Kremlev, a Russian national with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“GB Boxing condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has solidarity with the people, boxers, coaches and officials of Ukraine,” reads the statement.
Mike McAtee, Executive Director of USA Boxing, tells The Ring that the decision to withdraw came after deciding that participating would be in conflict with their own bylaws. He says that there are a number of concerns that USA Boxing had with IBA, including good governance, transparency and fiscal responsibility, but says the biggest concern remains those regarding fairness of the judging and officiating.
“They have failed to do what is required to be included back into the Olympic movement, and failed to guarantee fair play in the field of play, which was and is still USA Boxing’s major concern. The field of play is ripe for manipulation and corruption because they don’t have third party oversight,” said McAtee, pointing out that the Tokyo Olympic boxing tournament had officiating oversight from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is not being utilized at IBA events.
The IBA hit back in a statement Thursday, claiming that the decisions from the national boxing federations “have been made in a vacuum” and do not reflect the views of the athletes and coaches. The organization says it will provide financial aid to send athletes from non-participating countries to the World Championships.
“IBA stands by the fact that 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,” reads the IBA statement.
McAtee says USA Boxing had spoken with all of their athletes and that there was “100 percent” agreement from athletes to pass on the IBA Championships because “there was no guarantee that the playing field would be fair.” He also says that male boxers did not approve of the prize money for the Women’s Championships being half of what is offered in the Men’s Championships.
“Our male boxers stood shoulder to shoulder with our female boxers and said that is unfair and unequal,” said McAtee.
McAtee says USA Boxing athletes will remain busy in 2023 competing in national and international tournaments, including the Strandja Tournament in Bulgaria, which begins Saturday and runs through February 27, and the Pan American Games this October in Chile, which will be a direct qualifier for the Paris Olympics.
“There’s something more important and this is what USA Boxing is focusing on: qualifying for the 2024 Olympics,” said McAtee. “We’re looking forward to having our best showing in 20 years.”
With boxing not included on the initial program for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, McAtee says the hope is that the necessary changes can be made to keep boxing in the Olympic Games.
“Being part of the Olympic movement is a privilege, it’s not a right. Hopefully we can prove that we can be accepted back into the Olympic movement,” said McAtee.
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].