A Dutch boxer defies boycott to compete in the championships in Delhi

(Updates with De Cler quotes)

By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI, March 17 (Reuters) –

Dutch boxer Megan de Cler has said she is out of politics after she decided to defy her country’s federations’ boycott to compete in the women’s world championships in New Delhi.

De Cler’s participation, as well as the withdrawal of Donjeta Sadiku, who refused to start as a neutral because the hosts, India, will not recognize their country, Kosovo, as an independent nation, caused controversy during the ongoing event.

The Netherlands was among 11 countries to boycott the championships in protest at the presence of Russian and Belarusian boxers among the more than 300 participants from 65 countries.

Athletes from Russia and neighboring Belarus, which helped Moscow invade Ukraine a year ago, have since been largely barred from international competition.

De Cler said she didn’t want to miss out on her first senior-level elite championship.

“I’m not playing for the Netherlands, I’m here alone,” she told reporters on Friday after winning her first fight against Kazakhstan’s Nilufar Boboyarova in the lightweight division.

“I’m not into politics, I’m into boxing. This is why I am here.”

De Cler was seen carrying the International Boxing Association (IBA) flag at Wednesday’s opening ceremony and not wearing her national colors.

The IBA, which launched disciplinary action against boycotting countries, expanded its Financial Support Program (FSP) to encourage boxers from those countries to compete in New Delhi.

“Megan de Cler and her coach expressed their desire to participate as individual athletes under a neutral flag but under the name of the Netherlands, and the IBA complied with this request,” the governing body said in a statement to Reuters on Friday.

A contingent of six from New Zealand are also in Delhi for the event, even though their national federation would prefer them not to be there.

“This shows that athletes are not part of these political decisions and their main goal is to compete with the best,” said the IBA.

The International Olympic Committee suspended the IBA in 2019 over governance issues and did not involve it in running the boxing events at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Dutch federation is led by Boris van der Vorst, a prominent figure in the Common Cause alliance of nations, to ensure boxing has a future at the Olympics after the 2024 Paris Games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Van der Vorst was wrongly barred from running in the IBA presidential election last year when Russian Umar Kremlin was re-elected unopposed.

The World Cup was also affected by a diplomatic dispute after Sadiku refused to compete as a neutral under the IBA flag.

The IBA said the organizers “made every effort to create the conditions for Kosovar athletes to participate” and provide them with visas.

“It was unfortunate to learn that athletes from Kosovo turned down the opportunity to come to New Delhi,” the IBA said in a statement.

“The IBA always stands for the right of athletes to represent their national symbols, but must not influence diplomatic relations between countries.”

Kosovo’s president Vjosa Osmani called Sadiku’s treatment a “flagrant violation of international sporting standards”. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Toby Davis)


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