International Olympic Committee defends plans; Russian Olympic Committee balks
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) released an announcement today, issuing recommendations for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition. No final decision was mentioned regarding the 2024 Olympics in Paris, only that a separate decision would take place at a later date.
The announcement comes four months after an Olympic Summit that took place on December 9, 2023. The summit included leaders of all the stakeholder groups of the Olympic Movement, and the purpose was to form part of the ongoing dialogue regarding the sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments—those responsible for the “blatant breach” of the Olympic Truce and Olympic Charter.
“The Olympic Movement continues to make its contributions to any peace-building efforts,” said President Thomas Bach in a press conference today. “It feels deeply for the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Olympic community, whose pain and suffering are beyond imagination.”
Bach went on to say that the Olympic Games cannot prevent wars and conflicts, nor can they address all the political and social challenges in the world.
“This is the realm of politics,” he said, “but the Olympic Games can set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another. They can inspire us to solve problems by building bridges, leading to better understanding among people. They can open the door to dialogue and peace-building in ways that exclusion and division do not.”
Bach pointed out that the OIC has tripled it’s Solidarity Fund for the NOC of Ukraine to $7.5 million.
“At least 3,000 Ukrainian athletes and other members of the Olympic community of Ukraine have benefitted from the IOC Solidarity Fund through the NOC of Ukraine over the past 12 months, and from direct assistance from other Olympic Movement stakeholders, including the IFs and the NOCs,” he said. “These efforts have taken the form of financial and logistical support, in order to ensure that Ukrainian athletes can continue to train and take part in competitions by providing travel support, training facilities, accommodation, equipment and uniforms, amongst other items.”
After the four-moth consultation period, the vast majority of the Olympic Movement stakeholders “were clear that they want a pathway to be opened for the competitions under their sole authority.” Following their request, the OIC EB made made the following recommendations.
- Athletes with a Russian or a Belarusian passport must compete only as Individual Neutral Athletes.
- Teams of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport cannot be considered.
- Athletes who actively support the war cannot compete. Support personnel who actively support the war cannot be entered.
- Athletes who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies cannot compete. Support personnel who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies cannot be entered.
- Any such Individual Neutral Athlete, like all the other participating athletes, must meet all anti-doping requirements applicable to them and particularly those set out in the anti-doping rules of the IFs.
- The sanctions against those responsible for the war, the Russian and Belarusian states and governments, must remain in place:
- No international sports events organised or supported by an IF or NOC in Russia or Belarus.
- No flag, anthem, colours or any other identifications whatsoever of these countries displayed at any sports event or meeting, including the entire venue.
- No Russian and Belarusian government or state official can be invited to or accredited for any international sports event or meeting.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) issued their response:
“Now the recommendations that have been in force for more than a year have been disavowed by the International Olympic Committee, but the parameters and criteria announced for the return of Russians to international competitions are absolutely unacceptable.”
The ROC stated that the ban on team competitions was discriminatory and deprived at least 30 percent of the represenatives of their Olympic team the opportunity to compete in qualify without any legal basis.
“Thus, the current admission parameters will in no way contribute to the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in international competitions,” read the statement. “The decisions of the IOC Executive Board are nothing more than a farce, which is not aimed at normalizing the situation, in which the basic principles of the Olympic Charter and the UN Charter are grossly violated.”
The ROC also “categorically disagreed” with the application of any additional doping test procedures to Russian athletes.
Last week, Ukrainian sports minister Vadym Guttsait, accused the IOC of “double standards,” threatening a boycott of the Paris games if a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes is not upheld. In his interview with AP News, he pointed out this would not be his decision alone, that the Ukrainian Olympic Committee would have to convene and decide together.