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29 Nov, 2023 10:48

Boxer ‘heartbroken’ after her government bans fight with Russian

Tegan Farelly has become the fourth Irish boxer to be forced to withdraw from an event after being paired with an athlete from Russia
Boxer ‘heartbroken’ after her government bans fight with Russian

A teenage boxer from Ireland has had to withdraw from an event in Armenia after drawing a Russian opponent in the bantamweight division. Proceeding with the bout would have contravened the Irish government’s strict policy banning the country’s athletes from competing against Russian or Belarusian nationals.  

Tegan Farrelly, a four-time Irish champion, said on social media that she was “heartbroken” at having to withdraw from the world championships before her very first fight. “I didn’t even get one chance to box. I’m gutted,” she wrote on Facebook, noting that she will nevertheless continue to support her country’s team. 

Previously, three other Irish boxers – Kian Hedderman, Gavin Rafferty and Evelyn Igharo – also had to withdraw from bouts with Russian and Belarusian athletes at the European U-22 championship under the same government rule that was put in place following the outbreak of open militray conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

A number of fans, athletes and members of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) have repeatedly decried the government policy, calling it empty “virtue signaling” and have demanded the rule be revoked, arguing that politics has no place in sport. 

However, as pointed out by IABA president Gerry O’Mahony, the association’s hands are effectively tied as it is dependent on financial support from Sport Ireland – the country’s top sports authority – to survive. 

Following the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict last year, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been barred from competing in a number of international events, including the Olympic Games. However, some organizations, such as the International Olympic Committee, have since concluded that the blanket ban was discriminatory and have allowed athletes from the two countries to participate under neutral flags. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out last month that the Olympic movement was now a far cry from the ideals upheld by those who reinvigorated it in modern times, and noted that politics have trumped sportsmanship, causing athletes to suffer discrimination due to their ethnicity. 

Access to competition is being used to pressure people “who have no connection to politics” to accept certain points of view, which effectively amounts to “racist, ethnic discrimination,” Putin claimed.