Sports: a mosaic of decisions on the return of Russians and Belarusians to competition
The five rings, symbol of Olympism, in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee on March 24, 2020 in Lausanne AFP/Archives
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Fencing is in favor, athletics has repeated its veto: while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has opened the door to a return to competition of Russians and Belarusians, excluded since the invasion of Ukraine, the international federations do not display a united front on this issue that raises many debates in the run-up to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Here is the position on the issue of the main international federations and sports bodies
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe of Great Britain said even before the IOC recommendation that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be excluded from the competition, saying sanctions against their countries "seem to be the only peaceful way to oppose Russian actions and bring peace." He repeated on 23rd March last that Russians and Belarusians would remain excluded in the "near future".
The International Swimming Federation, World Swimming, accepted the IOC's recommendation on Wednesday. However, a final decision is not expected before the start of the World Championships in Japan in July. If it were favorable, however, Russian and Belarusian swimmers would have time to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
Russian and Belarusian players can participate in ATP and WTA tournaments but not under the flag of their country. They were banned from participating in the Davis Cup and its women's equivalent, the Billie Jean King Cup. After being knocked out of Wimbledon last year, they will be able to participate this year.
Russia has been ruled out of qualifying for the World Cup in 2022 and Euro 2024. According to Denis Rogachev, the president of the Russian Federation, "negotiations are underway" for it to participate in the first edition of the Central Asian Championship in June in Uzbekistan and "a process of negotiations is underway with UEFA and FIFA for a return by stages". UEFA did not exclude Belarus from the Euro 2024 qualifiers despite pressure from European Union countries, but withdrew in Minsk the organization of the U19 Women's Euro scheduled for 2025. Belarusian clubs can participate in European competitions.
Russian and Belarusian gymnasts are still suspended, but international federation president Morinari Watanabe said Thursday he was in favor of their return. The issue will be the agenda of the meeting of the governing body of world gymnastics in Turkey on May 12-13.
Russian and Belarusian drivers can compete under a "neutral" banner in Formula 1. But the contract of the only Russian present in F1, Nikita Mazepin, was broken by his team, the American Haas just before the start of the 2022 season. The Russian GP was removed from the calendar in 2022 and plans to hold another Grand Prix in St. Petersburg this year were cancelled.
The international federation has banned Russia, five-time world champion under this name since 1992, for a second consecutive year, considering "it is not yet appropriate to reinstate the Russian and Belarusian teams".
The international federation decided on 10th March to reinstate Russian and Belarusian fencers. But this decision is not unanimous since more than 300 active or retired fencers have sent an open letter to IOC President Thomas Bach, himself a gold medallist in foil at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, as well as to the interim president of the federation, Emmanuel Katsiadakis, accusing them of placing Russia's interests above those of Ukraine.
World Cup events in Germany, France and Poland, counting towards the 2024 Olympic qualifiers, have been cancelled, with the president of the European Confederation, Giorgio Scarso, telling AFP that "the situation cannot continue like this".
The international federation reiterated this week that Russian and Belarusian riders were excluded from all its competitions.
Scheduled from June 21 to July 2 in Krakow (Poland), the European Games, which bring together 18 Olympic disciplines and will serve as qualifying events for the 2024 Olympic Games, will be contested a priori without Russians or Belarusians. "Under no circumstances and in no way will athletes representing Russia and Belarus take part in our events," said Marcin Nowak, head of the organizing committee, in early April.
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