The IABA have suggested their Russian and Belarus boycott was put in place after liaising with the Government and Sports Ireland.
All Team Ireland boxers competing in the recent European U22 and World Junior Championship had to sign a contract agreeing to withdraw from the tournament if they were drawn against a boxer from either country.
It meant Kian Hedderman, Gavin Rafferty and Evelyn Igharo had to pull out of the Under-22 European Championships and Tegan Farrelly had to withdraw from the World Junior Championships by virtue of the draw.
It was policy that prompted widespread criticism, with many within Irish boxing arguing there should be no politics within sport. It was also a policy that came to a head when John Donoghue drew Russia in the World Junior quarters.
Minister of State for Sport Thomas Byrne was questioned on the issue at an Oireachtas committee insisted there would be no consequences for individuals who faced Russian fighters.
The Minster said there was no government pressure and that it was a decision solely for the IABA.
The IABA, who ended the boycott after Mr Andrews’ comments, have since released a statement suggesting that was not the case. They claim the comments ‘contradict all previous guidance’ on the matter.
THE STATEMENT READS AS FOLLOWS:
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association is taken aback by comments made by the Minister for Sport in the Houses of the Oireachtas on 28 November 2023, which appear to contradict all previous guidance on Irish athletes contesting against those from Russia or Belorussia boxing under their own flag.
IABA has engaged, fully, with the Department of Sport and Sport Ireland on this guidance since Ireland became a signatory to the inaugural Collective Statement on this and related matters by the Ministers for Sport of 36 countries.
IABA prepared, selected, provisioned and briefed two teams within the framework of this guidance – the 2023 European Under 22 Championship Team and the 2023 World Junior Championship Team. IABA engaged with the Department of Sport on this matter during this period, and no amendment of existing guidance was conveyed.
The 2023 European U22 Championship Team completed their tournament within the framework of this guidance. One boxer withdrew without contesting a bout as a result of this guidance, and 3 boxers were withdrawn as the championships progressed as a result of this guidance.
The 2023 World Junior Championship Team is in the midst of competition in Armenia; one boxer has withdrawn as a result of this guidance, without contesting a bout. Virtually all other remaining boxers, all of whom are 15 and 16 years of age, face the prospect of withdrawal as the competition progresses, in adherence to this guidance.
Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Sport, during a Select Committee meeting on 28 November 2023, “If an Irish fighter took on a Russian or Belarussian, will there be consequences for the club, for the individual?” The Minister stated “no”, and acknowledged that the guidance issued by the Department and other like-minded Ministers has placed “athletes and the IABA, in a very difficult position in particular. I certainly welcome and applaud that they have stuck to this principle and indeed their boxers and it’s a very important point that they do; but we have always been very clear that the IABA is an autonomous organisation, and that they make their own decisions.”
Whilst this commentary clearly states boxers and their clubs face no consequences, IABA would not have expected individual athletes or their clubs to face consequences under the issued guidance, as such teams are fielded by the NGB, not the club. Additionally, it is difficult to navigate how adherence to this principle can be “very important”, but electing not to do so is without consequence.
IABA notes that, following the Minister’s comments, no correspondence has been received from the Department of Sport or Sport Ireland. This is notable, as the comments change the complexion of IABA competition, and have implications for boxers currently in competition, and for boxers who complied with this guidance at the European U22 Championships.
IABA is dismayed at the lack of communication from the Department of Sport on this matter; in particular, that the Department elected not to issue clear, unequivocal guidance following the Minister’s comments to Deputy Andrews. IABA calls on the Minister to facilitate an urgent meeting.