International Olympic Committee recommends ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes

"The Olympic Movement is united in its mission to contribute to peace through sport and to unite the world in peaceful competition beyond all political disputes."

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) released a statement on Monday recommending International Sports Federations and events ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international competitions. The statement comes three days after the IOC called for sporting events in Russia to be banned or cancelled.

FIFA and UEFA suspended Russia from international football shortly after the IOC’s statement was released. Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, made a statement condemning the Russian invasion last week but has not yet moved to mirror the IOC and ban Russian or Belarusian athletes and officials.

According to the statement, the IOC believes it’s not fair to punish individual athletes for the decisions of their governments, however, the situation in Ukraine means Ukrainian athletes are unable to compete and therefore Russian and Belarusian athletes should also be barred from competition.

“The current war in Ukraine, however, puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma,” the IOC said. “While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.”

While the IOC’s recommendation is to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, the organization did leave some room for participation. IOC went on to say that sporting federations and event organizers should not allow athletes to compete under the names Russia or Belarus and instead include them as neutral individuals or teams. This specification leaves room for athletes participating in the upcoming Paralympic Games in Beijing.

“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.”

Many sports and teams have already released statements condemning the actions of Russia and some notable events, including the F1 Russian Grand Prix and the Champions League final, have been cancelled or relocated. Multiple countries have refused to compete against Russian teams in sports ranging from football to ski cross.

On Monday, FIFA, international football’s governing body, and UEFA, which runs European football, cancelled a contract with oil and gas company Gazprom thought to be worth roughly $33 million per season. Gazprom is majority-owned by the Russian state and also sponsors a cycling team. Russia has been banned from all FIFA competitions, which may cut the country off from qualification for the World Cup this year.

“The Olympic Movement is united in its mission to contribute to peace through sport and to unite the world in peaceful competition beyond all political disputes,” the IOC statement read. “The Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cups and many other sports events unite athletes of countries which are in confrontation and sometimes even war.”

Russian born cyclist Pavel Sivakov, who has lived in France since he was a child, released a statement on his social media over the weekend stating he was “totally against the war”.

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