IOC seeks ways for international return of Russian, Belarus athletes as neutral, but ban stays
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday issued recommendations to all international federations and international sports events organisers to explore a pathway for athletes with Russian and Belarusian passport to return to competitions as Individual Neutral Athletes.
However, the ban on participation of Russia and Belarus in international competitions and also organising and hosting international events in these countries continues and as of now, both countries can not send participants for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.
The Executive Board of the IOC discussed the issue on Tuesday following a request by the 11th Olympic Summit, that met on December 9, 2022, requested the IOC to explore a pathway for athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport to return to international competitions as neutral competitors.
The EB reiterated that the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 was not considered either in the consultations or in its deliberations on Tuesday.
No flag, anthem, colours or any other identifications whatsoever of these countries will be allowed to be displayed at any sports event or meeting, including the entire venue.
The IOC expressly reserves the right to decide about their participation at the appropriate time, even if they would be considered to have qualified according to the qualification criteria set by their respective International Federations (IFs)," the IOC said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Following the request of the Olympic Summit, extensive consultations and discussions took place with all Olympic Movement stakeholders: the IOC Members, the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the IFs and the global network of athletes' representatives. The IOC EB also stated on January 25, 2023, entitled: Statement on solidarity with Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and Belarus, and the status of athletes from these countries," the statement released after the EB meeting said.
The IOC EB on Tuesday recommended to IFs and international sports event organisers that athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports must compete only as Individual Neutral Athletes.
Besides, teams of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport cannot be considered, athletes who actively support the war cannot compete and support personnel who actively support the war cannot be entered.
It also said that athletes who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies cannot be allowed to compete. Support personnel who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies cannot be entered into any international competition.
Solidarity with Ukrainian athletes reaffirmed
At the same time, the IOC EB also reaffirmed its steadfast commitment to helping Ukrainian athletes in every way possible, to see a strong team from the country at the Olympic Games in Paris next year and the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026.
"To achieve this, the IOC has tripled its Solidarity Fund for the NOC of Ukraine to USD 7.5 million," the statement said.
At least 3,000 Ukrainian athletes and other members of the Olympic community of Ukraine have benefitted from the IOC Solidarity Fund through the NOC of Ukraine over the past 12 months, and from direct assistance from other Olympic Movement stakeholders, including the IFs and the NOCs, the IOC informed in its statement.
These efforts have taken the form of financial and logistical support, to ensure that Ukrainian athletes can continue to train and take part in competitions by providing travel support, training facilities, accommodation, equipment and uniforms, amongst other items.
The IOC EB reiterated on Tuesday its condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is a blatant violation of the Olympic Truce that was in effect at the time, and of the Olympic Charter.
"For this reason, the IOC has already sanctioned the Russian and Belarusian states and governments, who are solely responsible for this war, in an unprecedented way," the statement said.
The IOC EB on Tuesday underlined that the sanctions were in place against Russia and Belarus in February 2022 and then reinforced and confirmed by the Olympic Summit in December 2022, remain firmly in place.
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