IOC calls for ban on Russian athletes amid Ukraine invasion

Body urges member states to exclude Russian, Belarusian athletes from taking part in sport events after Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

The IOC last week urged all international sports federations to cancel forthcoming events in Russia, angry at Moscow violating an "Olympic Truce" with its attack on Ukraine [File: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters]
The IOC last week urged all international sport federations to cancel forthcoming events in Russia [File: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters]

The International Olympic Committee has urged sport federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The IOC also withdrew the Olympic Order, its highest award, from all high-ranking Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement on Monday, the IOC said its executive board “recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions”.

If not possible for “organisational or legal reasons”, the IOC called on sports officials to do “everything in their power” to prevent athletes from the two countries from taking part under the name of Russia or Belarus.

The Russian Olympic Committee categorically disagreed with the IOC, saying the decision “contradicts both the regulatory documents of the IOC and the (Olympic) Charter”.

“As a first step, we consider it necessary to send requests to international federations for an official response on the status of Russian athletes and their rights to participate in international competitions due to the fact that it is the … federations that have the authority to admit athletes to international competitions in the respective sport,” the ROC said in a statement.

“For its part, the Russian Olympic Committee intends to consistently uphold the rights and interests of Russian athletes and provide all necessary assistance to our national federations to challenge discriminatory decisions of the relevant international federations.”

The statement from the IOC comes shortly before the Winter Paralympics, which starts in Beijing on Friday. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will meet on Wednesday to discuss Russia before the Games.

IOC’s statement ‘falls short’

Athletes from Ukraine and other nations have urged the IOC and IPC to suspend Russia and Belarus and ban their athletes from events immediately.

The Global Athlete movement, which aims to empower athletes, said the IOC’s statement “falls short”.

“The #IOC refuses to fully suspend the Russian & Belarus NOC,” it said on Twitter. “The #IPC needs to immediately suspend the Russian and Belarus Paralympic Committees @Olympics @Paralympics athletes have seen these PR stunts in the past.”

The IOC also strongly urged federations to ensure that no athlete or sport official from Russia or Belarus would be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus.

“Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed,” the statement added.

However, the board said that in very extreme circumstances, the board would leave it to the relevant organisations to effectively address the dilemma.

“In this context, the IOC EB considered in particular the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and reiterated its full support for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the Games,” the statement added.

Olympic Order withdrawn from Putin

The IOC reiterated its recommendation not to organise any sport event in Russia or Belarus.

The IOC also said it had taken the ad hoc decision to withdraw the Olympic Order, the highest honour granted by the IOC, from all persons who currently have an important function in the government of the Russian Federation, including President Vladimir Putin.

It said it made the decision based on “the exceptional circumstances of the situation and considering the extremely grave violation of the Olympic Truce and other violations of the Olympic Charter by the Russian government in the past”.

Russia’s participation in the World Cup playoffs next month is also in doubt after FIFA plans to allow them to play on neutral territory were dismissed as “unacceptable” by rivals.

The IOC last week urged all international sport federations to cancel forthcoming events in Russia. The organisation went on to praise the “many calls for peace by athletes, sports officials and members of the worldwide Olympic Community”.

“The IOC admires and supports in particular the calls for peace by Russian athletes,” it added.

Ukraine’s health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since Russia’s invasion of the country last week. The figures could not be independently verified. Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.

Source: News Agencies