LAUSANNE: The International Boxing Federation (IBA) demanded on Friday that Russian and Belarusian athletes be allowed to return to international competition, as most organizations were banned after the February invasion of Ukraine.

The first body to make such an appeal, the IBA itself, has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 2019 due to numerous corruption scandals and the threat of the elimination of an Olympic sport after Paris-2024.

“Sports is beyond politics: where it begins, politics ends,” Russian President Umar Kremlev said in a statement issued by the federation on Friday. Boxing did not ban Russians and Belarusians from the competition.

“Now is the time to allow all remaining athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in all official sports competitions representing their countries,” he continued.

“Both the IOC and international federations must protect all athletes and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes out of politics.”

In a sign of its political neutrality, the IBA said Ukrainian boxers could compete in the European Junior Championships in Italy until October 5, after suspending the Ukrainian Boxing Federation on Sunday for controversial reasons.

IOC president Thomas Bach insisted on Friday that the recommendations made at the end of February “remain the same for now” in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra.

He emphasized that the decision to expel the Russian athletes was made “for their safety” and to protect the “autonomy of sports” from governments.

Since spring, the IOC has said it will review its recommendations against the Russians and Belarusians “live step by step” amid questions about their participation in the 2024 Olympics.

FIFA and UEFA have banned Russian teams and clubs from participating in their competitions and banned the national team from participating in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and from qualifying for Euro 2024.

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