Over 30 countries request Russian and Belarusian athlete ban from Paris Olympics

By Sports Desk February 20, 2023

Hosts France are among 34 countries to have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are also among those to have called for a ban to be imposed.

A joint-statement released on Monday detailed reasoning based around "Russia's unprovoked and unjustifiable war of choice [against Ukraine], facilitated by the Belarusian government."

Russia's sports minister, Oleg Matytsin, said earlier this month that it was "absolutely unacceptable" for governments to attempt to influence the IOC.

The IOC confirmed last month it intended to uphold sanctions against Russian and Belarusian state and government officials ahead of next year's Games in the French capital, but added it would explore opportunities for athletes from both nations to compete under a neutral flag.

Monday's statement from the 34 countries addressed that plan, welcoming "the IOC’s reaffirmation and reinforcement of their existing sanctions in place" while suggesting their neutrality comments raised "many questions and concerns".

"While recognising the autonomy of sports bodies, given the invasion of Ukraine and its devastation is ongoing, we agreed that the IOC's proposal on exploring a pathway back to competition for individual Russian and Belarusian athletes raises many questions and concerns," the statement read.

The signatories also referenced a lack of "clarity" around the neutrality model as a key reason why athletes from the two countries should not be present in Paris.

"We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as 'neutrals' – under the IOC's conditions of no identification with their country – when they are directly funded and supported by their states," the statement continued.

"The strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also of clear concern. Our collective approach throughout has therefore never been one of discrimination simply on the basis of nationality, but these strong concerns need to be dealt with by the IOC.

"As long as these fundamental issues and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable 'neutrality' model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition."

The statement finished by outlining the position would be altered should the war in Ukraine be ended, saying: "We also note that Russia and Belarus have it in their own hands to pave the way for their athletes' full return to the international sports community, namely by ending the war they started."

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