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Boxing-Dutch boxer defies boycott to compete in Delhi championship

(Updates with De Cler's quotes)

By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI, March 17 (Reuters) -

Dutch boxer Megan de Cler said she does not do politics after choosing to defy a boycott by her country's federation to compete at the women's world championships in New Delhi.

De Cler's participation as well as the withdrawal of Donjeta Sadiku, who refused to compete as a neutral because host India does not recognise her country Kosovo as an independent nation, have added to controversy at the ongoing event.

The Netherlands is among the 11 nations boycotting the championships in protest at the presence of Russian and Belarusian boxers among the 300-odd participants from 65 countries.

Athletes from Russia and its neighbour Belarus, which aided Moscow's invasion of Ukraine a year ago, have been largely frozen out of international competitions since.

De Cler said she did not want to miss her first elite championship at senior level.

«I'm not playing for the Netherlands, I'm here on my own,» she told reporters on Friday after winning her opening bout against Kazakhstan's Nilufar Boboyarova in the lightweight division.

«I don't do politics, I do boxing. That's why I'm here.»

De Cler was seen holding an International Boxing Association (IBA) flag in Wednesday's opening ceremony and did not wear her national colours.

The IBA, which has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the boycotting nations, has extended a Financial Support Program (FSP) to encourage boxers from those countries to compete in New Delhi.

«Megan de Cler and her coach expressed the wish to be participating as an individual athlete under a neutral flag but under the name of the Netherlands, and IBA honoured this request,» the governing body said in a statement to Reuters on Friday.

A six-member contingent from New Zealand are also in Delhi for the event even though their national federation would rather they were not.

«It demonstrates that the athletes are not part of these political decisions and their main goal is to compete against the best,» the IBA said.

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 seeking to ensure boxing has a future in the Olympics after the Paris 2024 Games.

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

The world championships have also been hit by a diplomatic dispute after Sadiku refused to compete as a neutral under the IBA flag.

The IBA said the organisers «did their utmost to create the conditions for Kosovo athletes to participate» and secure their visas.

«It was unfortunate to learn that the athletes of Kosovo declined the opportunity to come to New Delhi,» the IBA said in a statement.

«IBA always stands for the athletes' right to represent their national symbols but cannot influence the diplomatic relationships between countries.»

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani has called Sadiku's treatment «a blatant violation of international sporting standards». (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Toby Davis)

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