Thomas Bach is “not amused” by IBA election controversy and CAS challenge

The IOC president spoke about boxing, transgender athletes, Peng Shuai, Brittney Griner and Kamila Valieva on the sidelines of IOC Session

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends the final day of the 139th IOC Session at Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland, May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends the final day of the 139th IOC Session at Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland, May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The disarray regarding the recent elections by the international boxing federation could be a gut punch to the sport’s prospects for the future.

IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters following the 139th IOC Session in Lausanne, Switzerland his organization is monitoring the situation very closely.

”I think we are not amused to see the circumstances of such an election,” Bach said.

Noting the presidential election is being challenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), he added, “This is not what we mention as good governance.”

At the IBA General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, Umar Kremlev of Russia was re-elected as president. He stood unopposed after Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands was ruled ineligible by the Boxing Independent Integrity Unit Interim Nomination Unit for supposedly campaigning outside the electoral period, and collaborating with candidates for other positions. Four candidates for board positions were also ruled ineligible.

Van der Vorst has appealed to the CAS.

”We hope this decision will come soon and then we will have more clarity,” Bach said.

Boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon are not on the initial program for the LA28 Games and must prove they deserve to remain part of the Olympic family.

Bach said he and the IOC still maintain other concerns about IBA, including the continued financial dependence on Gazprom, a state-owned energy company in Russia. In addition, the IOC did not get any reports about manipulation of the refereeing and judging system from the women’s world championships.

He declined to comment further because it is an ongoing legal proceeding.

Umar Kremlev at AIBA presser in Lausanne on June 28 (AIBA)
Umar Kremlev at AIBA presser in Lausanne on June 28 (AIBA)

Bach said there were “no further developments at this moment,” regarding weightlifting. The IOC sports department is in contact with modern pentathlon and its athletes commission as it controversially moves toward replacing equestrian as one of its five disciplines.

”We are now waiting for their decisions and their plans and then our program commission will look at it and come up with a recommendation to the IOC Executive Board,” Bach said.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 22, 2022, US swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, finishes the 200-yard Freestyle for the University of Pennsylvania at an Ivy League swim meet against Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. - Thomas' controversial career as a transgender swimmer hung in the balance on February 2, 2022, after the collegiate body governing the sport announced new rules that could impact her ability to race competitively. USA Swimming said it created a new set of guidelines at the elite level for transgender athlete participation that "relies on science and medical evidence-based methods to provide a level-playing field for elite cisgender women, and to mitigate the advantages associated with male puberty and physiology." (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 22, 2022, US swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, finishes the 200-yard Freestyle for the University of Pennsylvania at an Ivy League swim meet against Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. - Thomas' controversial career as a transgender swimmer hung in the balance on February 2, 2022, after the collegiate body governing the sport announced new rules that could impact her ability to race competitively. USA Swimming said it created a new set of guidelines at the elite level for transgender athlete participation that "relies on science and medical evidence-based methods to provide a level-playing field for elite cisgender women, and to mitigate the advantages associated with male puberty and physiology." (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP)

An increasingly controversial issue is transgender athletes in Olympic sport. Bach spoke with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison about that topic on a recent tour, given that it has been mentioned in some campaign platforms.

”The IOC position is there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Bach said. “We all agree this is about creating a fair competition.”

The IOC president noted that at the grass roots level, “everyone has to have access,” but “when it comes to competition, we have to ensure a fair competition, sport by sport, even discipline by discipline where there is maybe an unfair advantage.”

Bach said that an equestrian athlete can’t be compared to a weightlifter, nor can a hammer thrower be compared with a 5,000-meter runner.

The international federations are supposed to make the determinations on eligibility based on guidelines and interpretations provided by the IOC.

”That’s why the IOC has established guidelines how to make this decision,” Bach said, “how to evaluate where there is maybe an unfair advantage and where there is not. All these decision have to be based on scientific evidence. You need an inclusive dialogue of all concerned and then you can make a well-founded decision according to your sport and your disciplines.”

He said the IOC urged the international federations to “get down to the facts,” and emphasized the IOC offers advice and access to experts.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Freestyle Skiing - Women's Freeski Big Air - Final - Run 3 - Big Air Shougang, Beijing, China - February 8, 2022.  China's Peng Shuai sits next to IOC President Thomas Bach as they watch the event. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
2022 Beijing Olympics - Freestyle Skiing - Women's Freeski Big Air - Final - Run 3 - Big Air Shougang, Beijing, China - February 8, 2022. China's Peng Shuai sits next to IOC President Thomas Bach as they watch the event. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Reporters also inquired about Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star who accused a former Communist party official of sexual assault and whose well-being attracted international concern.

Bach met with Peng in Beijing during the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and invited her to visit IOC headquarters in Lausanne. He said the IOC athletes commission and its chair, Emma Terho, have been in contact with Peng since then.

”The last contact was about two weeks ago,” said Bach.

He said the tennis player was looking forward to coming to Europe to visit Lausanne — in particular the Olympic Museum — while also possibly watching a tennis tournament.

However, Bach said the anti-COVID-19 measures in China and the strict quarantine requirements were a roadblock. “We have to see how this develops, but the contact is ongoing,” he said.

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva attends a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with the country's Olympians and Paralympians at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva attends a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with the country's Olympians and Paralympians at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

As far as the other major controversy from Beijing, regarding figure skater Kamila Valieva and her doping case, Bach said the IOC is in contact with the World Anti-Doping Association and the International Testing Agency, but it is their responsibility to follow up.

”This is in the hands of the anti-doping authorities,” Bach said. “This is independent of the IOC.”

Skaters from the United States are clamoring for a decision so the medal ceremony can be held in the team event. The IOC decreed no medals could be awarded until the 15-year-old’s case has concluded. Russia placed first in the competition, with Team USA second. A lawyer for the Americans speculated the ceremony could be held as late as 2024.

”We are hoping for a fast and very quick resolution to the issue,” Bach said. “Once this is resolved, we will have this ceremony. It’s not something we should be guessing about.”

The IOC president said the IOC has not been asked to intervene on behalf of Brittney Griner, the gold-medal winning basketball player held in pre-trial detention in Russia after being arrested on drug charges. “This is in the hands of the U.S. Olympic Committee and her league and they are acting on this,” Bach said. “We have not been contacted by them.”