Russia accused the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Saturday of violating Olympic principles by suggesting that its athletes might be allowed to return to competition provided they did not support the invasion of Ukraine.
Responding to the idea from IOC President Thomas Bach, one sports federation chief said Olympic participation should not require athletes to become traitors.
Russian news agencies quoted Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin as saying: “The main task of the international Olympic movement is to provide athletes with equal access to participation in the Olympic Games, regardless of their views and religions, traditions and citizenship.”
Matytsin said Russia would keep talking to the IOC and hoped it would change its stance. “Bach’s latest statement goes against Olympic principles,” he said.
The head of the Russian Wrestling Federation, Mikhail Mamiashvili, told RIA news agency the Olympics “do not have a principled position that one must be a traitor to the Motherland.”
He added: “What do these words of Bach mean – that we must now condemn our people, our president, our country? What is the meaning of his words? What kind of choice is this?”
The IOC issued guidance to sports governing bodies in February to remove from competition athletes from Russia and Belarus, which let Moscow use its territory as a launchpad for the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Bach, explaining the IOC’s thinking, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: “It is not about necessarily having Russia back. It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition… This war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”
Russia, which traditionally prides itself as an Olympic powerhouse, has been barred from competing under its flag or playing its national anthem at successive Games as punishment for widespread doping violations.