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Russian Athletes Say IOC Participation Plan ‘Excessive And Discriminatory’

  • 2 min read

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendation to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to international competition as neutrals is “excessive and discriminatory”, the Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) athletes’ commission said.

The IOC sanctioned Russia and its ally Belarus after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022 but last month recommended that their athletes be allowed to return to international competition as neutrals.

The recommendations include that Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete with no flag or anthem, while athletes who support the war or are contracted to military or national security agencies are excluded.

In March, ROC head Stanislav Pozdnyakov denounced the recommendations, a position backed by the athletes commission chaired by former Olympic 800 metres champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy.

“The proposed reintegration and admission criteria are excessive and discriminatory – by nationality and by passport, by discipline and sport, and by affiliation to certain entities developing sports for decades in most post-Soviet states,” the commission said in a statement.

“In our opinion, a dangerous precedent has been set when no athlete in the world can be sure that his or her human and civil rights will be duly respected from now on, that decisions are taken based on the Law and the Olympic Charter – without exemptions.

“Today we, athletes, are detained as hostages of political games that divide the international sports community and at the same time sow discord within the Olympic family – dictating the parameters of admission, defining who is eligible to perform and who is not.”

Table tennis, pentathlon, fencing, judo and taekwondo are among the Olympic sports that have readmitted athletes from Russia and Belarus as neutrals.

The IOC is to decide separately on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the 2024 Games at a later date, while Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Games if Russians are allowed to compete there.

Though the Russian athletes’ commission believes the IOC’s recommendations to be excessive, others have argued that they are too lenient.

On Tuesday, the British and French sports ministers insisted that Russian and Belarusian athletes must never compete as neutrals, while Ukraine has barred its national sports teams from competing events which include competitors from the two nations.

Former figure skater Oksana Baiul-Farina, Ukraine’s first-ever Olympic champion, told Reuters this month that Russians should be barred from the Olympics.