IOC Recommends Barring Russian, Belarusian Athletes After Invasion of Ukraine


IOC Recommends Barring Russian, Belarusian Athletes After Invasion of Ukraine

The executive board of International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday recommended the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from international events during the former nation’s military invasion of Ukraine.

In the IOC’s terms, Russia’s act of aggression is a a breach of the Olympic truce. Belarus has been complicit, with a pro-Russian government that has allowed the country to stage its attacks on Ukraine from bases within the country.

The IOC, which only controls participation in Olympic events, cannot affect a full stop, since its next event is not until the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024. (It is perhaps not a coincidence that Russian president Vladimir Putin waited until after the close of the 2022 Beijing Olympics to declare war, given his use of sporting spectacles to manage his international reputation in the past.) But the IOC is strongly recommending that sport governing bodies bar Russian and Belarusian athletes.

From the statement:

The Olympic Movement is united in its mission to contribute to peace through sport and to unite the world in peaceful competition beyond all political disputes. The Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cups and many other sports events unite athletes of countries which are in confrontation and sometimes even war.

At the same time, the Olympic Movement is united in its sense of fairness not to punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them. We are committed to fair competitions for everybody without any discrimination.

The current war in Ukraine, however, puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma. While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.

The IOC’s statement released six recommendations in its communique. The first and most severe is to “recommend that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.”

Where that is not possible, the IOC urges NGBs to resort to the tried and true “take away their flag” method, which has certainly deterred bad actors before. The IOC urges those athletes to enter only as neutral athletes/teams with “no national symbols, colors, flags or anthems”.

The IOC reasserted last week’s directive not to organize events in Russia or Belarus, which FINA has begun to heed by cancelling the World Junior Championships slated for Kazan this summer. The IOC also removed from the Olympic Order Putin, deputy prime minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and Putin’s deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak.

The IOC also, “reaffirms its full solidarity with the Ukrainian Olympic Community. They are in our hearts and thoughts. The IOC EB commits to continue and strengthen its efforts for humanitarian assistance. Therefore, the IOC EB has today established a solidarity fund. In this context, the IOC expresses its gratitude to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Sports Federations that are already supporting Ukrainian athletes and their families.”

The IOC’s action puts the ball in the court of FINA and other swimming organizers to exclude athletes of the belligerent nations. Many sports NGBs – from the International Judo Federation suspending Putin’s honorary presidential status to soccer federations refusing to play Russia ahead of its possible expulsion from the 2022 World Cup by FIFA – are taking their stances. That sets the stage for FINA to decide to follow.

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