Russian athletes competing as individual neutrals will not receive compensation for their participation at the Paris 2024 Olympics, according to a high-ranking official on Wednesday. If they win a medal, however, prize money could be on the table.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to make a formal decision on the readmission of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the wake of their invasion of Ukraine last February, but World Aquatics recently ruled that individual swimmers are allowed to apply for international eligibility as neutral athletes. A declaration of non-support of the war against Ukraine is expected to be a prerequisite for competition, which double Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov has already vowed not to sign.
“They are going as nobody from nowhere, athletes have to give up everything,” first deputy sports minister Azat Kadyrov told the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports. “If someone gets a license to go, we have to take them off the Sports Training Center roster, all these expenses are taken up by the International Olympic Committee.
“If someone wins a medal of any value, the corresponding question will be raised,” Kadyrov added.
Russia has set aside more than $9 million (USD) for Olympic incentives, but that prize money will apparently be reserved for athletes who remain loyal to Russia instead of those seeking the “neutral” designation next summer. The Russian sports ministry also requested nearly $400,000 in medal bonuses from the government for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Games last month in Belarus, where Russian athletes won 149 gold medals, 89 silvers, and 50 bronzes.
“The Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation provides the necessary conditions to protect the interests of Russian athletes in the international arena and the social payments and guarantees stipulated by law,” Kadyrov said. “At the moment, the IOC criteria on the issue of Russian athletes’ participation in the Olympic Games have not been officially defined, therefore, it is impossible to form specific regulations.
“The interests of athletes are a priority for the Russian Ministry of Sport when providing training and competition activities, as well as when making a decision on participation in the Olympic Games. At the same time, we consider it unacceptable to set discriminatory conditions for our athletes that have nothing to do with the sporting principle.”
World Aquatics’ criteria for readmission included “no support for the war in Ukraine,” which includes “participation in pro-war demonstrations or events, and the wearing of any symbol in support of the war in Ukraine.” If approved, only one Russian and Belarusian athlete would be allowed per event in competition, and they would be restricted from displaying national flags, playing national anthems, or giving interviews.
Ukraine’s prime minister has threatened a boycott along with a coalition of allies if Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics, but the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine (NOCU) has still yet to announce “a final position on this complex issue.” The proposed boycott has received backlash from IOC president Thomas Bach and artistic swimmers Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva.
Russian and Belarusian swimmers are expected make their return to competition as neutrals on the Swimming World Cup Series this fall in Berlin, Athens, and Budapest. At the moment, their best bet of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics seems to be through the 2024 World Championships next February in Doha, Qatar.