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Russia, Belarus athletes barred from world aquatics championships

Swimming - Olympics: Day 7

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 30: Evgeny Rylov of Team ROC reacts after winning the gold medal in the Men’s 100m Backstroke Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Russia and Belarus swimmers, divers and water polo players have been barred from the world aquatics championships in Budapest this summer.

Russia’s swimming federation responded by withdrawing all of its athletes from international events for the rest of the year, according to FINA, the sports’ international governing body.

FINA also stripped Kazan, Russia, as host of the world short-course swimming championships this December. It is in discussions with potential new hosts.

A FINA disciplinary panel is also investigating double Olympic backstroke champion Yevgeny Rylov for what it said was a potential rules violation for “his alleged participation in a pro-war rally” in Moscow.

Rylov has also lost his endorsement deal with swimwear manufacturer Speedo because of his involvement in the pro-Putin rally.

“FINA maintains its strongest condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” it said in a press release.

Before the ban was announced, Rylov said he would not compete at the world championships in support of all Russian athletes who have been barred from international competitions after the nation invaded Ukraine.

“In support of Russian Paralympians, in support of all Russian athletes who have been removed from international competitions, I refuse to go to the world championship this summer,” was posted on Rylov’s Instagram, according to a Reuters translation. “I believe that losing competition is losing the development of sport. As sad as it may sound, sport cannot move without decent competitors.”

Many other Olympic sports previously banned Russian athletes from international competition indefinitely. FINA had also banned Russia but before Wednesday had left the option open to allow certain Russia and Belarus athletes to compete as neutrals.

FINA became the first major Summer Olympic sports body to specifically ban Russia and Belarus from a 2022 World Championships.

Rylov was the lone Russian swimmer to take gold at the Tokyo Olympics, where Russians competed as neutral athletes for the Russian Olympic Committee. ROC went one-two in the men’s 100m back with Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov. American Ryan Murphy, who swept the backstrokes in 2016, finished third in that race and second behind Rylov in the 200m back.

Also in Tokyo, Russian artistic swimmers swept the golds in the duet and team events for a sixth consecutive Olympics. Russians earned bronze in the men’s synchronized platform in diving and finished fourth in women’s water polo.

Belarus earned zero medals in aquatics in Tokyo.

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