Athletes from Russia and Belarus were banned from competing following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by neighbouring Russia in February 2022.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sporting events as the Olympic Games Paris 2024 rapidly approaches.
IOC President Thomas Bach delayed the decision on Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in Paris however suggested having them join in more secondary events as neutrals.
“One, athletes with a Russian or a Belarusian passport must compete only as individual neutral athletes,” Bach voiced.
“Two, teams of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport cannot be considered. Three, athletes who actively support the war cannot compete. Support personnel who actively support the war cannot be entered,” the former German Olympic foil fencer added.
The IOC’s change of heart comes with harsh criticism with Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk describing it a day of disgrace for the committee.
“This is a day of absolute disgrace for the IOC. This is how Piotr Wawrzyk from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs comments on the decision to restore the possibility of Russians and Belarusians participating in next year’s Olympic Games in Paris under a neutral flag,” Wawrzyk said.
Last month Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said there can be no neutrality in sports while Ukrainian athletes are dying on the battleground due to the Russian invasion.
“To bring Russian athletes back into the Olympic Games are attempts to tell the whole world that terror is somehow acceptable,” the Ukrainian president said.
“As if you could shut your eyes to what Russia is doing in Kherson, Kharkiv, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka,” Zelenskiy added, citing strikes in his country cities.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has continuously denounced the IOC’s ruling as “discriminatory.”
“..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 ROC stated last month.