Zelensky urges banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from 2024 Olympics

The Paris Olympics are still two years away, but the question is already being asked whether Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete under their country’s flags.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky intervened on Wednesday, urging the International Olympic Committee to ban the participation of these athletes regardless of the flag they are carrying, days after the committee’s top official expressed a new tone of openness on the relaxation of restrictions.

In a phone call with IOC President Thomas Bach, Mr Zelensky said allowing athletes to compete under a neutral flag would not be enough to punish Russia.

“Since February, 184 Ukrainian athletes have died as a result of Russia’s actions,” Zelensky said on the call, according to a reading from the Ukrainian president’s office. “One cannot try to be neutral when the foundations of a peaceful life are destroyed and universal human values ​​are ignored.”

In February, the IOC advised that Russian and Belarusian athletes be excluded from competitions, breaking with the organization’s typical position that athletes should not be punished for the actions of their government.

In A declaration, the organization cited the “integrity of global sports competitions” and “the safety of all participants” as two factors in the decision, which was made “with a heavy heart”. There are certain situations in which athletes may be permitted to compete as neutral athletes, the statement said.

But in recent days, IOC officials have not clarified whether Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete in the Summer Olympics in 2024. Although the organization has not changed its official guidelines from February , there are signs that she is looking to ease her restrictions. .

“We need to explore ways to overcome this dilemma regarding athlete participation and return to sporting merits and not political interference,” Bach told a news conference last week. according to Reuters.

Bach stressed that the initial IOC guidelines were about athlete safety. “What we never did and didn’t want to do was prohibit athletes from competing just because of their passport,” he said, adding that the IOC does not had not yet set a date to make a decision.

In the past, athletes from countries under Olympic sanctions had been allowed to compete under an Olympic flag rather than under their national flag. For instance, Russian athletes made it to the Beijing Olympics in February after Russia was embroiled in a major doping scandal at the 2014 Olympics. And in 1980, when many nations boycotted the Olympics in Russia over its invasion of Afghanistan, some athletes from countries boycotters competed under neutral flags.

This week, a senior US Olympic official endorsed the possibility of considering “a return route” for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral flag. A group of high-ranking Olympic officials from around the world met in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week to discuss the matter.

“We agreed that there would now be exploration and consultation with stakeholders to see if there could be a pathway for these individual athletes to return as neutrals,” said Susanne Lyons, chair of the Olympic and Paralympic Committee. the United States, according to Reuters.

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