Amateur boxing's international governing body on Thursday lifted the three-month suspension of USA Boxing that was imposed over its response to several controversial statements by its former president.
The International Boxing Association's (AIBA) disciplinary commission leveled the suspension last week, effectively canceling all American amateur boxing competitions and clinics until mid-January.
After USA Boxing's new leadership appealed to AIBA, asking the governing body to refrain from punishing its 37,000 members for its response to ex-president Hal Adonis' incendiary comments to the New Yorker magazine, USA Boxing announced AIBA had allowed competitions and clinics to resume.
"It is obvious that the reputation of our members and the good they have done through the years is what will see USA Boxing through," USA Boxing President Charles Butler wrote in a letter to his members.
AIBA didn't lift its two-year suspension of Adonis, who survived a vote by USA Boxing's board of directors and briefly kept his seat on the board after getting ousted from the presidency in June.
The 75-year-old Adonis was quoted in the New Yorker earlier this year claiming connections between childhood abuse and successful boxers, particularly in the women's sport.
"Remarks that discriminate against large groups of our athletes based on race or gender and associate the sport of boxing with child abuse are totally foreign to our membership," Butler said in his appeal letter to AIBA President Wu Ching-Kuo. "Our members have dedicated their lives to helping the young men and women of our country get off the streets and change their lives for the better. Many of these young men and women have become great American Olympic and world champions who are ambassadors for boxing worldwide."
USA Boxing removed Adonis from a leadership role shortly after his comments became public, yet a portion of its board of directors still voted to retain Adonis as a board member. That vote infuriated AIBA and the USOC, which threatened to decertify USA Boxing unless the beleaguered organization agreed to leadership changes and more oversight.
AIBA spokesman Sebastien Gillot said the organization "shall take the necessary steps to assist, improve and develop the sport in the USA and protect the interest of its boxers."
USA Boxing's new leadership, including Butler and executive director Anthony Bartkowski, vocally disavowed Adonis' remarks. Yet the vote to keep Adonis on the board could have resulted in the organization's immediate dissolution without some nimble maneuvering.
"The offense of which we are guilty is one committed by our leadership," Butler said in his letter to Wu. "Please allow our leadership to accept responsibility and make it right."
AIBA's decision means USA Boxing will be allowed to field a team at the Youth World Championships next month in Yerevan, Armenia. The Junior World Team Open, a new American tournament designed to pick the junior national team, will be allowed to go on in January, along with several smaller amateur boxing shows across the nation.
The trouble with Adonis is just the latest problem to befall USA Boxing, which has been criticized for declining Olympic medal totals along with its internecine internal squabbles. USA Boxing went through roughly one chief executive each year for most of the previous decade, while the most successful nation in Olympic boxing history has won just one gold medal in the past four games combined.
The men's team in London was sent home with no medals for the first time in Olympic history, although middleweight Claressa Shields and lightweight Marlen Esparza won medals in the inaugural women's tournament.
While Bartkowski and Butler have stabilized the organization's structure, the current leadership has no idea whether it will be around after the USOC-mandated restructuring takes place in the next several months. At least their latest maneuver with AIBA preserves a portion of the American program's future.
"Our local boxing gyms and grassroots events are critical to USA Boxing's athletes and coaches in not only building future champions, but also creating stronger young men and women," Bartkowski said.