Boxing is set to come under further scrutiny this week as the troubled organisation governing the amateur discipline is in line to re-elect a Russian to its highest-ranking position.
Despite Russia becoming a sporting pariah following the invasion of Ukraine, Umar Kremlev is the favourite to retain his spot as president of the International Boxing Association in an election scheduled for Friday.
Question marks have been raised over Kremlev, first elected to the role in December 2020, being eligible to stand for the position given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent bloodshed in the country.
‘Of course, he should not be there,’ a source close to the IBA executive committee said. ‘Every Russian official who is holding a high position should, at the very least, step back temporarily.’
Kremlev is known to Vladimir Putin and is on speaking terms with the Russian president. Video footage taken at the 2019 European Games in Minsk shows the two in relaxed conversation outside one of the venues for the event.
Russia’s Umar Kremlev is in line to be re-elected president of the International Boxing Association
Kremlev (centre) has been allowed to stand for re-election despite Russia’s war on Ukraine
Kremlev, who is being challenged by Dutch outsider Boris van der Vorst, has essentially saved the amateur boxing body from going bust after signing a lucrative sponsorship deal with the Russian state-owned company Gazprom in 2021, which remains in place despite other sporting organisations and clubs – such as UEFA and Schalke – ditching their deals with the Kremlin-sponsored group in response to the Ukraine war.
The IBA has given no indication that it plans to follow suit. ‘If you were a reputable company, you would not want to bring your name to close to Gazprom at the moment,’ the IBA source added.
‘This source of funding is more and more compromised by the war and the political situation.’
While Russian and Belarusian boxers are currently banned from competing at IBA events in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, there remain concerns with the lack of action taken by the IBA in regard to Kremlev’s position and the Gazprom agreement.
Russian boxers are banned from competing at IBA events due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion
Kremlev’s impending election is the latest crisis for the embattled IBA, which is still reeling from the corruption and bout-rigging scandal in the Olympic boxing tournament at Rio 2016. Dozens of officials were found to have fixed fights at the games in the Brazilian city and for five years after the event.
The revelations were published in two reports from Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who authored the review into Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme. Sources told Sportsmail that the third stage of the report from McLaren will be published on June 22.
Boxing is still fighting to keep its place at the Olympics, with the IBA battling to be reinstated as the Olympic governing body for the sport in time for Paris 2024.
Amateur boxing has been in crisis for years due to the issues at the governing body
The Olympics in Rio in 2016 were marred by allegations of corruption in boxing
Refereeing and judging was one of three main reasons why the IBA was suspended by the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC decision also came in response to the federation’s poor finances and governance, including its members electing Gafur Rakhimov, a man designated as ‘one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals’ by the US Treasury Department, as president in November 2018 – against the advice of the IOC.
Kremlev keeping hold of his presidency is unlikely to help the IBA’s case with the IOC, which is not expected to make a decision on boxing’s spot at the Paris Games until next year. The Tokyo 2020 boxing tournament was run by the IOC as a result of the IBA suspension.
The IOC, the most powerful body in world sport, has previously taken the rare step of publicly stating its concerns with the Russian official after its investigation found Kremlev had changed his name. It has also issued the IBA with warnings over its Gazprom deal.
‘The IOC concerns are still not resolved,’ an IOC spokesperson told Sportsmail.
CORRUPTION IN OLYMPIC BOXING
The Rio 2016 boxing tournament was blighted by a corruption and bout-rigging scandal, detailed in extensive reports from Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.
All 36 referees and judges who officiated at Rio 2016 were stood down amid the allegations, leading to McLaren launching an investigation.
McLaren has conducted an exhaustive study of events around Rio 2016 and catalogued how fights were rigged.
He found evidence of bribes, with money stuffed into toothpaste tubes, demands for $100,000 and threatening late-night visits to the hotel room of a boxing judge, who refused to join in with the corruption.
But it did not stop there. At least five competitions were marred by attempts to fix fights right up to July of last year, McLaren revealed.
The third and final installment of the report from the Canadian, whose findings into the Russian state-sponsored doping programme, is due to be published on June 22.
Concerns over refereeing and judging in the sport were among the reasons for the IOC suspending the Olympic recognition of the IBA, which prevented it from having any role in the boxing tournament at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The competition in Tokyo was run by an IOC task force and the suspension could also ban the IBA from involvement in the Paris 2024 Games, while boxing’s place on the programme for Los Angeles 2028 remains conditional.