Only after Russia’s war on Ukraine is over will its athletes be allowed to compete in international sporting competitions again.
When Russia launched its unprovoked war against Ukraine, the entire world community denounced the war. The world soon came together to help Ukraine, and the international community placed harsh sanctions on the Russian Federation.
One of these sanctions was the exclusion of Russians from international sporting organizations.
The announcement of the International Olympic Committee sparked anger. It mentioned the possible access to sports competitions for individual athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports. The IOC statement was published following the Executive Board meeting on January 25, 2023.
Neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood – President of Ukraine
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his disappointment with the statements of the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.
“I spoke with him several times. And I never heard how he would protect sports from war propaganda if he returned Russian athletes to international competitions. There is no such thing as neutrality in a war like this. And we know how often tyrannies use sports for their ideological interests. It is obvious that any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood”, Mr. Zelensky said.
Ukraine’s sports minister has vowed to boycott the 2024 Olympics in Paris if Russian and Belarussian athletes are permitted to compete. Ukraine’s sports minister Vadym Goutzeit declared that such a move was “unacceptable.”
“Our position remains consistent — Russian and Belarusian athletes should not compete in international tournaments as long as the fighting in Ukraine continues,” Goutzeit wrote on Facebook.
The International Olympic Committee’s stance on allowing athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutrals at Paris 2024 “sends a message to the world that it endorses Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine,” according to an open letter from Athletes for Ukraine. The statement, made jointly with the support group Global Athlete, also asserts that the IOC’s actions are in contravention of the Olympic Charter.
“By allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, the IOC is strengthening Russia’s propaganda machine, empowering the Putin regime, and undermining peace,” the statement says. The statement is signed on behalf of Athletes for Ukraine and supported by the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation.
International sports ban against Russians
Such restrictions do exist in the sports world. Russian men’s and women’s national teams and Russian football clubs have been barred from playing in FIFA and UEFA competitions. Russians were also prohibited from competing in the qualifying rounds for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2024 European Championships.
Russian athletes were informed that they would be unable to compete in numerous athletic events worldwide. According to these international organizations, ties will only improve after the Russian Federation ends its senseless war.
However, as the anniversary of the war approaches, some organizations are beginning to reconsider these sanctions. There is no fear that they would relax sanctions imposed on Russia.
The Russian Football Union (RFU) desires to leave UEFA. When the war broke out, FIFA and UEFA told the Russian Federation that it would be barred from participating in international competitions. The ban will be lifted only when Russia ends its unlawful and needless war in Ukraine.
Russia filed appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). These cases were dropped. CAS agreed with FIFA and UEFA that the battle had to halt.
Russia looks to Asia
Unsatisfied with this response, the Russians are considering the Asian Football Confederation. Moscow believes joining the AFC would allow the Russians to compete again in international tournaments.
“The presence of the RFU in UEFA contradicts the national interests of Russia,” Russian State Duma Deputy Roman Teryushkov said in an interview with sports.ru.
The Russians launched an unprovoked and illegitimate war. Tens of thousands have died, and millions have been displaced due to their war. The Russian war has been catastrophic and destructive, and the Russians should be held accountable.
Sanctions and other retaliation measures should be maintained until Russia’s conflict is over, Ukraine is rebuilt, and Russian-occupied lands are restored to Ukraine.
If the AFC accepts Russia, it will imply that the world community is taking a huge step backward. It would praise Russia for its actions while informing authoritarian countries that they may invade their neighbors without consequence.
There is no certainty that the AFC would accept Russia. States that have mainly supported Ukraine, such as Japan and Australia, would almost certainly try to reject Russia’s proposal. But the fact that Russia is even being considered is astonishing.
Putin’s war has high support from Russia’s population
While Russian and Belarusian athletes are not responsible for Russia’s war, the Russian population’s support for Putin’s war remains exceptionally high – 81%, according to the poll conducted in December 2022.
Therefore, the entire Russian society, including athletes, must feel responsible for Russia’s imperial policy and war of aggression against a sovereign state.
Participating in major international events is a privilege, not a right. Allowing Russian athletes to compete in the IOC would imply that this approach becomes the norm, allowing the Russian invasion to continue indefinitely. In Ukraine, the war instigated by Russian dictator Putin is still claiming innocent lives.
Allowing these athletes to compete in these games would imply that the international community has not learned anything from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.