IOC Could Allow Russian Athletes ‘Who Do Not Support the War’ to Return

by Riley Overend 35

October 01st, 2022 International, News, Paris 2024

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering allowing Russian athletes to return to competition as long as they don’t support the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It is not about necessarily having Russia back,” IOC president Thomas Bach told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Friday. “It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition. Those who have distanced themselves from the regime should be able to compete under a neutral flag. But it is not easy.

“Here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes,” Bach said. “But we saw that some governments did not want to respect anymore the autonomy of international sports… This is why we’ve had to take these protective measures to be at least still a little bit in the driving seat and not lose all autonomy. And this is why, on the other hand, we also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

There is no change yet to the current recommendations against Russian and Belarusian participation in international competitions, which have remained in place since late February. But the IOC is beginning to weigh future options with some Paris 2024 qualifying events already being held. 

“There is no change in the recommendations… We are very grateful to the International Federations that they are following them,” Bach said. “The Olympic Movement has a mission to contribute to peace, so we have to see how we can contribute to peace. I think our major contribution is to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

Requiring Russian athletes to condemn the war in Ukraine is complicated by the fact that dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail time.

Russia’s sports minister, Oleg Matytsin, responded to Bach’s latest remarks by claiming they go against Olympic principles.

“The main task of the international Olympic movement is to provide athletes with equal access to participation in the Olympic Games, regardless of their views and religions, traditions and citizenship,” Matytsin said. “Bach’s latest statement goes against Olympic principles.”

The news doesn’t appear to bode well for Russian backstroke ace Evgeny Rylov, who is currently serving a nine-month suspension from all FINA-sanctioned competitions and activities for appearing on stage at a pro-war rally in Moscow in March. Rylov, who won Gold in the men’s 100 and 200 back at last summer’s Olympics, was celebrated on stage along with other Russian medalists before Russian president Vladimir Putin took the stage to speak on the “special operation” in Ukraine. 

As of last week, the UN had confirmed 5,996 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, including 382 children. The actual number is likely much higher. One-third of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, leaving seven million people displaced internally within the country. 

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kazoo
1 month ago

This IOC idea/policy–like most things it does– is dumb. First, it puts the athletes in a very difficult position. Second, Russia’s Olympic athletes are sponsored by the state, which has invaded Ukraine. You can’t distinguish individual athletes from the country that supports them–and to try and do so is absurd. Russia should be banned from the games–no Russians compete, period. The IOC is always trying to split hairs with outlaw nations. Just ban Russia.

STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
1 month ago

The IOC is being simplistic if it thinks it will be ok for Russian athletes to compete if they state they are against the invasion. The fact is that many Russians are against the invasion but still think that it was right for Russia to annex Crime in 2014 and more recently the Donbass region because those regions are predominantly Russian in ethnicity. The IOC should just ban all Russian athletes otherwise it will be opening up a whole can of worms.

Ukrainian
Reply to  STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
1 month ago

Crimea and East of Ukraine are not “predominantly r**sian in ethnicity”. They have just been influenced by r**sian separatists for too long, including constant brainwashing. It was, is (despite temporary occupation) and will (soon) be Ukraine ✊🏼

Beachmouse
1 month ago

The Russian Olympic Committee (or whatever we’re calling it now) has stated that it expects their athletes to be supportive of military actions in Ukraine. I can’t see any anti-war Russian athlete being credentialed to compete under the Russian flag for a good long while. Bach’s enough of a long time politician to know it too.

So it’s the IOC kind of trolling the Russians under the cover of ‘being fair’ to the athletes and the only real impact might come in sports like tennis, golf, and cycling, where less than 5% of an athlete’s career is competing under the national flag and not in general pro ranks.

Paul
1 month ago

The question is: who goes to Russia for doping tests? And how reliable are they?

Snarky
1 month ago

Boy if these athletes have to publicly denounce Putin and war we might see athletes flying out of hospital windows.

Chachi
1 month ago

That’s a no from me, dawg. Ban all Russian passports.

Ukrainian
Reply to  Chachi
1 month ago

The only resonable solution until complete change of the regime in r**sia.

Steve Nolan
1 month ago

This is somehow one of the dumber proposals I’ve heard from someone affiliated w/ the IOC, which is really saying something.

Individual penalties are dumb – Rylov should not have been singled out – just as individually allowing certain athletes to compete based on…whatever is proposed here…would be.

Either ban the entire country or ban no one.

NB1
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

I disagree. The idea is good but the wording and the rule they are forming is impossible to implement.
How do you know someone opposes or supports the war?
Well, you would know if they are in jail! Even calling it a war can carry jail time in Russia, let alone opposing it.
How would they compete at the Olympics from jail?

Instead, he could have said: we support Russian athletes who want to compete internationally but are stuck in Russia. They will get asylum if they meet criteria A.B.C. (It’s not his place to grant asylum but he can support it with the IOC’s policy for athletes in terrorist states)

Last edited 1 month ago by NB1
Steve Nolan
Reply to  NB1
1 month ago

I don’t think that’s any more straightforward.

Hey, folks, if you wanna compete at the Olympics just…abandon your home country forever, we’ll totally help you move somewhere.

Troyy
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Leaving their family and friends behind in the process …

NB1
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

10s of 1000s of people do that already to avoid the draft

Troyy
Reply to  NB1
1 month ago

Doing it to avoid going to die/murder people in Ukraine is a bit different.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Right! All for the chance to go to one competition, one time, maybe.

NB1
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

do you have a better suggestion for them IF they want to compete at the Olympics? Because their chances are 0 if they stay in Russia

commonwombat
1 month ago

Again; tone deafness from the IOC who really do seem to exist in their own parallel reality.

Notionally; what they are suggesting would be an ideal situation HOWEVER …..

  • the current situation with the RUS/UKR conflict is such that such an action should not be considered and would need to be significantly advanced towards a peaceful solution …. and not one dictated by Putin.
  • how and who is going to make such a subjective judgement

Regrettably as it may be for RUS & BLR competitors who may not approve of their authoritaian leaders but there is an Olympic precedent in place; that seen in 1948 where Germany and Japan were not invited. Such should be the case… Read more »

Noor
Reply to  commonwombat
1 month ago

Huh?

Ukrainian
Reply to  commonwombat
1 month ago

It’s not CONFLICT, my friend. The “conflict” is, for example, when two drunk dudes start the fight over something insignificant. Conflict also suggests that both participants are somehow guilty of starting it and need just to chill.

When you start shooting missiles and invade the lands which belong to some other independent state it’s called WAR.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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