IOC KO’s Boxing Group’s Plan to Pay Olympic Medalists in Paris

The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday threw cold water on a plan from a suspended governing body that would pay boxers who medal at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Earlier on Wednesday, the International Boxing Association (IBA) announced plans to compensate medal winners for the boxing events. However, the IOC rejected the move and said that the IBA—which has no affiliation with the Paris Games—was not prepared to explain the sources of its financing, a longtime source of tension and a reason for the IBA’s banishment from the Olympics.

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“As always with the IBA, it is unclear where the money is coming from,” the IOC said in a pointed statement. “This total lack of financial transparency was exactly one of the reasons why the IOC withdrew its recognition of the IBA.”

According to the IBA proposal, each fighter and coach who advances to the quarterfinals in competitions—for both men and women and in all weight classes—would have been awarded $100,000 for winning a gold medal, $50,000 for silver and $25,000 for bronze from a $3.1 million pool. National federations would also have been awarded money for their winning boxers.

“Our athletes and their efforts must be appreciated,” IBA president Umar Kremlev said in a statement made before the IOC ruling. “The IBA offers opportunities and invests considerably in our boxers. They remain as the focal point, and we will continue to support them at all levels.”

The proposed payments are the latest salvo in the battle between the IOC and IBA, which have been at odds for years over governance of the sport. Last year, the IOC voted to remove its recognition of the boxing group on the recommendation of its executive board, which believed that promised changes were not made.

In 2019, the IOC suspended its recognition of the IBA due to a lack of financial oversight and concerns over fair officiating and judging of its competitions. The suspension led to the IOC managing the boxing program in place of the IBA during the Tokyo Games, even after the Olympics were postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The IBA, an organization of several continental-level confederations, is run by Kremlev, who was elected its president in late 2020. Promising to clean up the governing body in the face of corruption allegations, Kremlev created several reform committees and expanded the number of weight classes for both men and women. Notably, he also introduced the same prize money amounts into the World Championships that were announced for the upcoming Olympics.

However, the IOC had been concerned about Kremlev’s dealings since taking over the IBA, with his alleged ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some notable red flags have been Kremlev’s opposition to independent referees and judges for fights, the relocation of its headquarters from Switzerland to Russia; turning the IBA into a marketing machine for Kremlev himself, according to a 2022 report in The Washington Post; and the IBA’s sponsorship agreement with Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company. Gazprom has been a supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

In September 2022, the IBA briefly banned Ukrainian fighters from its sanctioned competitions, countering the IOC’s banishment of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Tokyo Olympics. (During the COVID-delayed Games, athletes from those countries were allowed to compete under the IOC’s flag and emblem instead of their native/sponsor countries.) The IBA also chose to not hold a presidential election in 2022, granting Kremlev an extended term in power.

Multiple countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, boycotted the World Championships in 2023 in response to the IBA’s decision to allow Russia and Belarus to compete with no impediment. Those nations also joined an IOC-sponsored rival to the IBA, World Boxing, that needs more support to put boxing on the program for the 2028 Olympiad in Los Angeles.

While its winning amounts are larger, the IBA’s plan mirrors that from World Athletics, which has offered to pay medalists in the track and field events.

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