The International Boxing Association (IBA) announced on Wednesday, that it will allow Russian and Belarusian boxers to return to the sport. Kalle Klandorf, president of the Estonian Boxing Association (EBA), said that the EBA had not received any official notice from the IBA regarding a change of policy. He also confirmed that the EBA had no intention of inviting Belarusian or Russian athletes to take part in its competitions for the foreseeable future.
In a move that marks a considerable U-turn from a decision made earlier this year to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from IBA competition, they will now be able compete under their national flags, and, should they win gold medals, hear their own national anthems from the podium.
"We have still not received any official notification (from the IBA). Therefore, we are currently acting in accordance with the official notification we received in March this year, which states that the IBA condemns (Russia's) violation of the 'Olympic truce' and its military action against Ukraine," said Klandorf.
The 'Olympic truce' is a symbolic UN resolution ratified by the Olympics' host nation ahead of the games to secure safe passage for participating athletes and promote peace. The 2022 Olympic truce began on February 4, seven days prior to the Beijing Winter Olympics, and ended seven days after the conclusion of the Paralympics in March. In launching a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russia violated the Olympic truce for third time, the only country to have done so.
According to Klandorf, the EBA received no official communication from the IBA to suggest that such a decision was even being considered. Klandorf said, that there had been no mention of allowing Russian and Belarusian boxers to return to the sport during the IBA Extraordinary Congress in Yerevan on September 24-25, and that the announcement made on the IBA's website on Wednesday had come as a huge surprise.
"The board approved the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from competitions and that is the only measure we are acting upon. The notification I have just spoken about was officially sent to all (national boxing) federations. We had not read the notice, which appeared on their (IBA) website, because we do not check their website every day. We expect, that if there is to be an official announcement, it will be sent to the federations and will override any previous announcements. So long as there is no official announcement, we will continue to abide by the previous instructions," said Klandorf.
"I think that such a radical change of course should be communicated to the federations first. At the congress two weeks ago, not a word was said about it," Klandorf said, adding that the EBA continues to comply with the official notice it received from the IBA regarding the issue in March.
Kalndorf: Sport and politics no longer separate
Klandorf believes, that sport and politics have long since ceased to be separate, and can no longer be treated as such. The IBA for instance, is headed by Russian businessman Umar Kremlyov and counts Gazprom among its biggest sponsors.
"Sport and politics are not separate and there is no way they can be. It is athletes that compete in sports, but sport is developed by states and each state does so according to its own areas of expertise and opportunities, which means that the political dimension is there. All I can say, is that we are not going to invite Belarusian or Russian athletes to competitions organized by the Estonian Boxing Federation in the foreseeable future," Klandorf added.
In November, the IBA World Youth Boxing Championships, for boxers under the age of 19, are due to be held in Alicante, Spain. Klandorf believes, Spain needs to decide whether, as a European country, it can allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to take part.
"The first time we could have a situation where a World Championship is happening and Russian competitors are there, would be in November in Spain, where the U-19 Championships will take place. I would start with the fact that Spain is a European country. This letter is addressed to competition organizers. It is, to a large extent, up to that country to decide, whether or not it is willing to host them. Estonia is not currently organizing a European or World Championship, so we don't have that problem," said Klandorf.
"For ones that are organized here (in Estonia) by the Estonian Boxing Association, we have already made a decision ourselves. We will not be inviting athletes from Russia and Belarus," Klandorf added.
According to the EBA President, the International Boxing Association's contributes nothing to the development of boxing.
"I don't see how (this decision) will advance or develop boxing in any way. Ukraine is still a victim of the aggressor," said Klandorf, adding that the IBA's ruling in no way represents the view of the Estonia. "This decision was made only at board level, without a general discussion, not to mention (the exclusion of) the (national boxing) federations," Klandorf explained.
Kade steps down
Ervin Kade, former head coach of the Estonian national boxing team, was, until recently, chair of the IBA's coaches' committee. However, in light of the recent developments, he has decided to step down from the role. Despite being in close contact with the IBF leadership, Kade was also taken by surprise upon hearing about the 'backward-looking' decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to the sport.
"We just had a congress in Armenia, and it would have been possible to raise the issue there," Kade said, in an interview with Vikerraadio. However, it appears that Kade was kept in the dark over the IBA's decision.
"First, Ukraine was not allowed to compete (in IBA events) under their own flag, or their national anthem. This was later followed by a message from the president of the IBA, saying that no restrictions should be imposed on anyone for political reasons, let's still allow Ukrainians (to compete under their own flags). Then, it was a case of 'let's allow Russians and Belarusians too.' There was a lot of whitewashing going on," laughed Kade. "It all happened in a very short space of time."
Kade, who is now based in Finland, is very much in the loop when it comes to knowing the views of the Nordic boxing community. The Finnish Boxing Federation in particular was extremely quick to react to the IBA's decision.
"The Finnish Boxing Federation's board of directors held an extraordinary meeting in which they decided (Finnish boxers) would not participate in competitions where Russian and Belarusian athletes are involved, nor would Russian and Belarusian athletes be allowed to take part in Finnish-run competitions. The Swedish federation has said the same. I don't know the positions of the other federations yet," said Kade.
Kade believes, that the IBA's decision, which places it at odds with the stances taken by the international governing bodies of most other sports, could eventually lead to changes in the way the sport is run.
"In fact, the IBA has already reached the point where boxing has not been confirmed on the program for the (2028) Los Angeles Olympics. The Paris (2024) Olympics are being organized by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) task force. I can foresee a development whereby (boxing at) the Olympic Games is no longer be under the patronage of the IBA," said Kade.
Kade doesn't believe that the IBA board will change, however he suggests that alternative international boxing associations, may emerge to take its place in the future. "It does call into serious question whether boxing will even be in the Olympics. A lot of boxing fans have also said that we don't want boxing at the Olympics under this kind of management. There are other boxing associations in the world. The WBC, for example, has started running its own amateur program, so I think some form of alternative will emerge."
Editor: Michael Cole