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Russia, Belarus banned from some sports events after IOC recommendation

Legends Race biathlon festival near Minsk, Belarus

MINSK REGION, BELARUS - FEBRUARY 18, 2019: Spectators with national flags of Belarus and Russia during the Legends Race biathlon festival at the Raubichi Olympic Centre in Ostroshitsky Gorodok, Minsk Region. Natalia Fedosenko/TASS (Photo by Natalia FedosenkoTASS via Getty Images)

Natalia Fedosenko/TASS

Russia and Belarus athletes are barred from some international sports competitions, including in soccer and ice hockey, after the International Olympic Committee Executive Board recommended bans to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.

“The Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cups and many other sports events unite athletes of countries which are in confrontation and sometimes even war,” according to an IOC press release. “At the same time, the Olympic Movement is united in its sense of fairness not to punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them. We are committed to fair competitions for everybody without any discrimination.

“The current war in Ukraine, however, puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma. While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.”

The IOC did not say for how long it recommends athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus should be banned.

FIFA and World Curling were the first international sports federations under the Olympic umbrella to take action after the IOC announcement.

FIFA and UEFA said Russian national and club teams are suspended from their soccer competitions until further notice. If Olympic soccer qualifying mirrors that of the last cycle, the ban would have to run into the second half of this year for Russia to potentially be eliminated from 2024 Olympic men’s or women’s qualification.

World Curling announced that, barring objections from its member associations in the next three days, it will remove Russia from upcoming world championships. Worlds for men, women and mixed doubles are scheduled over the next two months. Belarus did not qualify for any of those events.

Later Monday, the International Ice Hockey Federation announced Russia and Belarus are banned from international competition until further notice, potentially ruling them out of world championships.

World Rugby also suspended Russia and Belarus until further notice.

Russian athletes are already banned from competing under the Russian flag at major international competitions into December due to the nation’s doping violations, but they have been able to compete as neutral athletes or under the names of the Russian Olympic Committee or their national federations.

Last Friday, the IOC board urged all international competitions scheduled to be held in Russia or Belarus to be canceled or relocated. Earlier that day, the International Ski Federation said it would cancel or relocate six World Cup stops through the end of March that were scheduled to be held in Russia.

The IOC said Friday that Russia, by invading Ukraine, and Belarus, whose government supported Russia, violated the Olympic Truce, which calls for peace over a period from seven days before the Olympics through seven days after the Paralympics. The Paralympics open Friday and run through March 13.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has not announced a decision on Russia and Belarus athlete participation and plans to discuss the matter at a previously scheduled Wednesday board meeting. A spokesperson said that’s the earliest it can do so as members fly into Beijing this week.

“The IPC acknowledges the statement made earlier by the IOC Executive Board and have been in close dialogue with the IOC regarding the breach of the Olympic Truce,” an IPC spokesperson said Monday.

The spokesperson also said that none of the 20 Ukrainian athletes have arrived for the Paralympics yet, but they’re hopeful that the team will arrive before Friday’s Opening Ceremony, though there are no flights out of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to The Associated Press.

“This is a truly horrible situation, and we are greatly concerned about our National Paralympic Committee and Para athletes from Ukraine,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a Thursday press release. “Our top priority right now is the safety and well-being of the Ukrainian delegation, with whom we are in regular dialogue.”

The IOC and the IPC are separate organizations.

If upcoming competitions are unable to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials due to short notice or legal reasons, the IOC board strongly urged organizers to only accept them as neutral participants without national symbols, colors, flags or anthems.

“Wherever, in very extreme circumstances, even this is not possible on short notice for organizational or legal reasons, the IOC EB leaves it to the relevant organization to find its own way to effectively address the dilemma,” according to the release.

In that context, the IOC gave full support for how the IPC decides on participation of Russia and Belarus on short notice for the upcoming Winter Paralympics.

On Sunday, many Ukrainian athletes wrote in an open letter to the IOC and IPC presidents calling on athletes from Russia and Belarus to be banned from international competition, including the Paralympics that open Friday.

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