Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states on Monday called for the continued exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Olympics, saying there is ‘not a single reason’ to backtrack on the current restrictions.
‘There exists not a single reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) more than a year ago,’ the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued jointly with Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
‘We strongly believe that now is not the time to consider the opening up of a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to the Olympic Games in any status.’
Soon after the Ukraine war began last February, the IOC recommended banning Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, such as judges, from international competitions.
However, this January, following discussions with two special rapporteurs, the IOC issued a statement referring to the need to respect the right of all athletes to be treated without discrimination.
It has proposed that competitors from Russia and Belarus could be allowed to compete as neutral athletes in Paris next year.
In the joint statement, the countries said they ‘regret that the IOC used these concerns as a pretext to reverse radically its previous well-argued stance on the recommendation not to invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.’
‘We wish to stress that it is not athletes’ nationality that determines their role, but the fact that they are sponsored/supported by their governments or businesses backing up the Kremlin regime, which continues its war of aggression against Ukraine, or even they are affiliated with the Russian military directly,’ read the statement.
It further said Russia ‘keeps attacking Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure including sports facilities and killing Ukrainians including Ukrainian athletes,’ adding that many athletes were forced to leave the country and are prevented from participating in sports events due to the war.
‘While the IOC has made no final decisions yet, we strongly urge it to reconsider its plans and return to the original well-proven stance supported by the international community,’ the statement said.
‘We remind that Russia and Belarus have at their disposal a way forward for their athletes to return to the international sports community, namely ending the war of aggression launched by Russia with complicity of Belarus and restoring respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders,’ it concluded.
Source: Anadolu Agency