Europe 1 with AFP 17:46 p.m., March 28, 2023

Around 300 fencers have decided to send a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) calling for a ban on the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions. This request comes a few weeks after they were authorized to compete again by the international federation.

More than 300 fencers asked Tuesday in an open letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to "maintain (its) suspension recommendations" against Russian and Belarusian athletes, authorized in early March to return to international tournaments. "On behalf of more than 300 current and retired shooters, we invite you, as a decision-making body, to maintain your recommendations for suspensions of the Russian and Belarusian fencing federations and their National Olympic Committees, and to ensure that the International Fencing Federation (FIE) follows your guidelines," the athletes wrote in a letter to Thomas Bach. President of the IOC.

This position follows the decision taken on 10 March by the FIE to reinstate the Russians and Belarusians from April, the start of the qualification period for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, "subject to possible future IOC recommendations/decisions". The IOC Executive Board is meeting on Tuesday to clarify its position on the possible return, as athletes from both countries have been excluded from international competitions for more than a year and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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'Total contempt'

Among the signatories of this letter signed by "Global Athlete", a group of athletes outside traditional sports institutions that was created at the time of the doping scandals concerning Russia. We find the American Lee Kiefer, Olympic champion in foil in Tokyo in 2021, the French Manon Brunet, bronze medalist in sabre behind two shooters competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), or the Olympic champion (2008), the Ukrainian Olga Kharlan. "With total disregard against the advice of the athletes, you have allowed the return of Russia and Belarus to FIE competitions," the shooters said.

"To date, Russian aggression against Ukraine has resulted in the death of 232 athletes, the destruction of 343 sports facilities, the exile of 40,000 athletes and the absence of sports infrastructure for 140,000 young athletes," they add. According to them, the suspension must continue and include qualifying competitions for the Olympic Games as well as the Games themselves, "until Russia has completely withdrawn from Ukrainian territory".