World Athletics, the governing body of international athletics, announced on March 23 that it was lifting the restrictions imposed on the Russian Athletics Federation in connection with anti-doping violations. However, this does not mean that Russian athletes will return to competition, said Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics.
“The Council agreed to the reinstatement of the Russian Federation (RusAF) after seven years of suspension and that of course was due to the egregious institutional doping violations. However, athletes, officials and support personnel from Russia and Belarus are still excluded from competition for the foreseeable future due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the World Federation’s statement said.
The list of sanctions that remain on Russia and Belarus due to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine also includes:
a. no hosting of any International or European athletic events, which includes World Athletics Series, Continental Tour meetings and other International Competitions;
b. no right to attend, speak and/or vote at meetings of Congress;
c. no accreditation to attend any World Athletics Series events;
d. no involvement of Member Federation personnel in any official World Athletics development or professional programs.
The World Athletics Council also recommended that the organizers of other athletics competitions – the Diamond League, Continental and other tours – use the same approach and keep the sanctions against Russia and Belarus in athletics in force.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said: “As I noted at the time these measures were introduced last year, the unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus by countries and industries all over the world appear to be the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace.”
“The death and destruction we have seen in Ukraine over the past year, including the deaths of some 185 athletes, have only hardened my resolve on this matter. The integrity of our major international competitions has already been substantially damaged by the actions of the Russian and Belarusian governments, through the hardship inflicted on Ukrainian athletes and the destruction of Ukraine’s sports systems. Russian and Belarusian athletes, many of whom have military affiliations, should not be beneficiaries of these actions,” he added.
In January, the International Olympic Committee announced a plan that would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2026 Milan Winter Games. The plan calls for Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate as “neutral athletes” who will not represent their country through a flag, anthem, uniform, or other identification.
The United States, Canada, and most European countries criticized the decision. The United States and more than 30 other countries have supported the current ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in international sports competitions.
Ukraine does not rule out a boycott of the Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete, Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit said in January.