IOC President, Thomas Bach, He went on the attack this Thursday and considered the negative reactions shown by some governments, especially Europeans, to the readmission of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions “deplorable”. He also judged “absolutely unacceptable” the position of Russia, a country that disagrees with the decision for considering that the conditions imposed by the IOC on its athletes are excessive.
The Executive of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) closed this Thursday three days of meetings with a new debate on the consequences for sport of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Last Tuesday the Executive recommended the readmission of Russians and Belarusians under certain conditions, including that they compete as neutral individuals (teams will not compete), that they have never actively supported the war and that they do not belong to the army. And today he analyzed the “negative reactions” to that measure. “It is deplorable to see that there are governments that do not want to respect the opinion expressed by the majority” of the Olympic community, Bach said, “nor the autonomy of sport.” The president also regretted that those governments opposed to the return of Russians and Belarusians do not have the same attitude “with the other 70 wars and conflicts that exist in the world.”
Asked why the IOC does not also act in the same way in these conflicts and forces the athletes involved to compete as neutrals, Bach argued that the The invasion of Ukraine took place between the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, for which it was “a flagrant violation of the Olympic Charter”. Bach also accused critical governments of employing “double standards” and said their stance has only served to strengthen “the unity of the Olympic Movement.” “It is even more deplorable that (governments) ignore the reports of United Nations rapporteurs” in favor of the admission of all athletes, without influence of their passport, he said. “It is not up to governments to decide which athletes can participate in which competition. It would be the end of the sport as we know it today.”
The German leader stressed that, following the recommendation of the Executive, “It is only for the international federations to decide whether to take that path” of admitting Russians and Belarusians, removed from competitions since February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Belarus is its main ally in the area. The boxing and fencing federations are among those that have already taken the step in favor of reinstatement, while the athletics federation has been against it. Regarding the membership of athletes in Russian army clubs, Bach distinguished between those who complete compulsory military service – one year for men in Russia – and those who later remain in the army of their own free will. That is why he asked the international federations to designate a independent panel to study “case by case” to see which Russian and Belarusian athletes can acquire neutral status.
There is still no decision made on the participation of both countries in the Paris 2024 Games, an aspect that “definitely” will be studied after the countdown to “one year from the Games” is held, he commented. ”We want to monitor the process. When we have a full picture, we will decide,” he said. Bach also indicated that the Executive has raised a question to the IOC Ethics Commission on what would be “the impact of the IOC recommendations and the strict conditions for the participation of athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports” on the role of Russian IOC members.