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Another conflict on the horizon? The IOC opened the door for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes, and warned against political interference


It was in an official statement, a day after Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, asked the Frenchman Emmanuel Macron to exclude them from Paris 2024. What are the conditions?

Shortly after one year after the start of the war in Ukraine, this Wednesday the

International Olympic Committee

 opened the door for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete again, under a neutral flag and provided they meet a series of conditions.

The recommendation of the IOC Executive Commission, which considered that "no athlete can be deprived of competing because of their passport", pointed to readmission for the

2024 Paris Olympic Games

, whose qualifying tournaments are already underway. progress, and could generate, in the coming months, more than one clash.

It is that the decision of the body led by

Tomas Bach

came a day after

Volodymyr Zelensky

, Ukrainian president, asked his French counterpart,

Emmanuel Macron

, to exclude Russians from the Olympic and Paralympic events to be held next year.

The IOC reported that a series of meetings were held last week with its members, athlete representatives, International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to discuss the sanctions against Russia and Belarus and the support to Ukraine.

And that the vast majority of the parties consulted supported the idea of ​​reopening international sport to Russian and Belarusian athletes, in line with the "strong commitment to the unifying mission of the Olympic Movement" and with the Olympic Charter, which calls for "respecting the rights of the athlete to be treated without discrimination".

The IOC maintained that no Russian and Belarusian flag or identification will be displayed at any sporting event or meeting.

Photo AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The statement stressed that "governments should not decide which athletes can participate in which event and which athletes cannot."

And he assures that it would be necessary to explore in depth what would be the way to resume the participation of athletes under strict conditions.

What would those requirements be?

Firstly, the IOC points out that they will return as "neutral athletes", and will not represent their State or any other organization in their country in any way.

In addition, he explains that only those who have not acted against the IOC peace mission or actively supported the war in Ukraine will be welcomed back.

So, for example, gymnast

 Ivan Kuliak

, who was suspended for a year for standing on the podium with a "Z" on his chest (symbol of the Russian invasion of Ukraine) during the Doha

World Cup

in May 2022, could not be reinstated. 

Bach and Zelenskiy at a meeting last July.

Today, each one defends his position.

Photo Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Another requirement will be full compliance with the World Anti-

Doping Code 

and all relevant anti-doping rules and regulations, for which individual controls will be carried out on all registered athletes.

The parties consulted by the IOC also unanimously reaffirmed the need to strengthen the sanctions already in force against Russia and Belarus.

Thus, no international sporting event organized or supported by an IF or NOC will take place in those countries;

no flag, anthem, colors or any other identification of these countries will be displayed at any sporting event or meeting;

and no Russian or Belarusian government or state official will be invited or awarded accreditation.

Also unanimously, the support and help to the Ukrainian athletes and Olympic community was reaffirmed so that they can participate with "a strong team" in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and in the

Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Olympic Games


The IOC's decision will surely provoke rejection from the Olympic movement, especially from the Ukrainian authorities.

Zelenskiy asked Macron to exclude Russians from the 2024 Paris Games. Photo REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

"I have particularly insisted that Russian athletes should not participate in the Paris Olympics," Zelensky wrote on his


account on Monday after a phone chat with Macron.

The Ukrainian president had earlier made the same request to Bach and, a month ago, had suggested that athletes from Russia and Belarus should be "completely cut off" from any international competition.

It is worth remembering that, although the teams and teams from those nations were suspended and cannot participate in any sporting event (the Russian soccer team missed the

World Cup in Qatar

), there are sports that they can compete in, without the colors or the flag of their country, as it happens in the professional tennis circuits.

found positions

With the IOC on one side and Ukraine on the other, the debate was raised.

Should world sport be reopened to Russians and Belarusians?

"The ideal solution does not exist", analyzed

Giovanni Malagó

, president of

the Italian Olympic Committee

and IOC member, consulted by the

ANSA news

agency .

"There is no way to make everyone happy. The IOC's mission is global and, therefore, the solution should also be global and cover the 206 countries of the world. It is clear that Ukraine does not accept this precept and is putting pressure on it. We will have to choose for the lesser evil."

Last December,

Sebastian Coe

, president of

World Athletics

, had established a position by stating that for him "nothing has changed" and that "all Russian and Belarusian athletes, as well as technical and managerial staff will continue to be excluded from all organized events by World Athletics in the near future".

Coe, president of World Athletics, is one of those who opposes the readmission of Russia and Belarus.

Photo AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

On the other side of the discussion appears, for example,

Billie Jean King

, a living legend of tennis.

During her time at the

Australian Open

, the former American player raised a request to


, which last year prohibited players of those nationalities from playing the British Grand Slam, for which reason it did not distribute points for the rankings, by decision of the ATP and the WTA.


All England

need to imitate the other 'big three'. Life is too short and these athletes should be allowed to play and win points and money," said the former world number one.

In the middle of the controversy, was the IOC.

"We must find a way to overcome this dilemma to return to contemplating sporting merits and not political interference," Bach warned late last year.

That is the challenge that the German leader and his organization will face in the coming months.

With information from agencies

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All news articles on 2023-01-26

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