The IOC recommends the return of some Russian athletes to international competitions

GENEVA – Some Russian athletes may soon return to international sport, although their status for next year’s Olympics in Paris is still up in the air.

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday recommended that individual athletes from Russia and Belarus be allowed to return to competition neutrally, as long as they have no military connections. But the IOC, which has faced increased pressure to ban Russia and Belarus from the Paris Olympics because of the war in Ukraine, has held back on deciding whether they can participate in next year’s Summer Games.

This decision will be made “in due course”, said IOC President Thomas Bach. For other events, including Olympic qualifiers, it will be up to individual sports federations to make the final decision on whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can participate.

While the IOC said Russia and Belarus should remain banned from team sports like soccer and basketball, it still resisted repeated calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to ban all Russian athletes while his country is occupied and attacked. But athletes from Russia and its military ally Belarus who have actively supported the war in Ukraine or are “under contract with the military or national security agencies” should not be admitted as neutrals, Bach said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said more than 20 of the country’s medalists at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics held military ranks. Of the 71 medals won in Japan, 45 came from athletes affiliated with the Central Sports Club of the Army.

In team sports, Russia and Belarus are “out of the question” for a return, Bach said at a press conference after unanimously agreeing on the 15-member board.

PHOTOS: IOC offers advice to allow athletes to return from Russia and Belarus

Team competitions in other sports, such as relays or mixed doubles or team all-around in gymnastics, should also be taboo, the IOC said in a document explaining its guidance.

“There is definitely discrimination in that,” veteran Russian gymnastics coach Valentina Rodionenko said in comments reported by RIA Novosti, adding that with “conditions like these, they understand very well that Russia itself will not agree to them.”

In the guide, the IOC said it would like Russians and Belarusians to be known as individual neutral athletes with the French acronym AIN.

They should wear uniforms that are either all white or solid color and must not have a team logo. Athletes should be prohibited from displaying their national flags on social media or from making statements “that could harm the interests of the competition, its integrity or the neutrality of the competitor”. 5 page document specified.

The IOC’s recommendations “do not” concern the Paris Games, which open in 16 months.

“The IOC will make that decision in its own discretion when the time comes,” Bach said, adding that “we’re not kicking it out in the street” when asked if the IOC was effectively buying time for the war to end.

Individual Olympic sports must now determine the entry and eligibility requirements for their events, which include ongoing qualifiers for the Paris Olympics and beyond for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Some Olympic sports, such as athletics and gymnastics, have established independent integrity units that have gained widespread recognition. The position of some sports organizations that have strong sporting, commercial and political ties to Russia is less clear.

The proposed conditions are stricter than when Russia was subject to doping sanctions at all winter and summer games since 2018. These events allowed uniforms in national colors to be worn and music by Tchaikovsky to be played when Russian athletes won gold medals.

The IOC also said event organizers should not fly Russian or Belarusian flags and try to prevent spectators from bringing national flags into venues. Four fans with Russian flags, including one with a picture of President Vladimir Putin, were evicted after hoisting them at the Australian Open tennis tournament in January.

The IOC advice, presented on Tuesday, marks a profound shift in the sport’s position vis-à-vis Russia and Belarus after most governing bodies were almost completely shut down.

Days after the war began in February last year, the IOC called on sports federations to isolate Russia and Belarus. It cited an “extremely serious violation” of the Beijing 2022 Olympic ceasefire and the integrity and security of sporting events, including the injustice that Russians could train in peace while the lives of Ukrainian athletes were disrupted.

In January, The The IOC officially announced that it will seek a “way for athletes to compete under strict conditions” so that Russians and Belarusians can try to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Bach repeatedly referred to advice independent UN-recognized human rights experts that excluding athletes solely because of their passports would be discrimination.

On Tuesday, Bach said one factor that has changed the IOC’s thinking is some sports that neutral Russians and Belarusians have already reintegrated, such as tennis and cycling. football is Exclusion of Russian teams by FIFA and UEFA was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

Zelenskyj has consistently demanded the exclusion of all Russian athletes and teams. His call has the backing of some governments and Olympic bodies in Europe and elsewhere.

“A slap in the face to the Ukrainian athletes,” said Sports Minister of Bach’s native Germany, Nancy Faeser, on Tuesday in response to the IOC’s announcement. “Anyone who lets the warmonger Russia use international competitions for their propaganda harms the Olympic ideal of peace and international understanding.”

Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pazdnyakov told TASS the guidelines would prevent athletes from competing: “The decision is a farce, the basic principles of the Olympic Charter are violated.”

Ukrainian athletes, including past and current Olympic champions, have also publicly contradicted the IOC’s declared “unifying mission” to bring the world together peacefully in sport.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said there should be no Russian delegation at her city’s Olympics if the war in Ukraine continues.

Bach was close to Putin in the first year of his IOC leadership ahead of the steroid-ridden 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, reminding reporters on Tuesday that he stripped the Russian president of an Olympic honor last year.

When asked if he had recently communicated with Putin, Bach replied, “A resounding ‘no’.”

Source :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *