Ukraine to boycott World Judo Championships over Russian athletes

Ukrainian federation alleges that Russian judokas registered for championships in Qatar are ‘active servicemen’.

Azerbaijan's Mammadali Mehdiyev and Russia's Khusen Khalmurzaev fly through the air as they compete in the Tokyo judo world championships
Azerbaijan's Mammadali Mehdiyev, left, and Russia's Khusen Khalmurzaev compete during their mixed teams World Judo Championships bronze medal contest in Tokyo, 2019 [File: Issei Kato/Reuters]

Ukrainian judokas will not take part in this month’s World Judo Championships in Qatar following the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) decision to readmit Russians and Belarusians as neutrals, the Ukrainian Judo Federation (UJF) has said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month recommended that athletes from the two countries be allowed to return to international competition as neutrals.

The IJF last week announced that it would allow judokas from Russia and Belarus to participate in the May 7-14 championships, saying its decision would allow Russians and Belarusians to participate in qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The IOC’s recommendations exclude athletes who support the war or are contracted to military or national security agencies. The IJF has said it has enlisted an independent company to perform background checks and identify any such athletes.

However, the Ukrainian federation (UJF) alleged that a number of Russian judokas registered for the championships are “active servicemen”.

“We do not see here neutrality, equal conditions and a ‘bridge to peace’, as stated in the IJF Resolution on the participation of Russian and Belarusian teams in the World Championships in Doha,” the UJF said on Monday.

“We see here a decision that contradicts the latest recommendations of the International Olympic Committee … We are disappointed with the decision of the International Judo Federation. Therefore, we have decided not to participate in the World Championships in Doha.”

The federation said more than 250 Ukrainian athletes – including judokas – have given their lives defending the country against a Russian army “still waging a brutal full-scale war on our territory, shelling Ukrainian cities, civilian homes every day, killing civilians and children”.

Ukraine has barred its national sports teams from competing in events that include competitors from Russia and Belarus.

The IJF and the Russian judo federation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Moscow has previously condemned moves to restrict or ban its athletes from competing as “discrimination on the basis of nationality” and says all athletes must be allowed to compete.

After Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, for which Belarus was a staging area for Russian troops, the IJF removed Russian President Vladimir Putin from his position as honorary president and cancelled a Grand Slam event in Kazan, Russia.

Source: News Agencies