The IOC opens the door to a return to competition for Russians who have “distanced themselves from the regime”

Will we see Russian athletes competing under a neutral banner at the Paris Olympics in 2024? According to the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, the possibility cannot be ruled out. A few months before the start of the first Olympic qualifying events, the former German fencer returned to this thorny issue in an interview. to Corriere della Sera, posted Friday, September 30.

In the wake of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the IOC had asked international federations as well as organizers of sporting events not to invite or allow the participation of Russian athletes and official representatives in international competitions. – a measure extended to their Belarusian counterparts, due to Minsk’s support for the Kremlin. The decision was then justified by the will of “protect integrity” of these meetings and to ensure “participant safety”.

Read also Pascal Boniface’s column: Article reserved for our subscribers “The conflict in Ukraine marks a turning point for the international sports movement”

Seven months after the outbreak of the conflict, the prospect of seeing it come to an end still seems remote: on Friday, September 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin formalized the annexation of four Ukrainian regions during a ceremony in Moscow; a few days earlier, he decreed a partial mobilization as part of his “special military operation”.

Persistent “dilemma”

The banishment of Russian sport was ” The good choice “, repeated Mr. Bach to the Italian daily, and the recommendations in force remain the same for the time being. But, he continues, this does not solve the ” dilemma ” of the IOC.

In an increasingly polarized world, the problem could extend

“Our peace mission is faltering and, in such a conflicting context, it is the Russian and Belarusian athletes who are paying the price”, believes the German. Worse, in an increasingly polarized world, the problem could spread. thes Iranians might not want to let Americans compete, Palestinians reject Israelis…

“The mission of the Olympic movement is to contribute to peace while remaining politically neutral: of course, at the present time, we have to find how we can do this”, he summarizes. So even if it means reintegrating some of the Russian and Belarusian athletes. “The war was certainly not started by [ces derniers]. Those who have distanced themselves from the regime should be able to compete under a neutral flag. »

Also read the story: Article reserved for our subscribers With the war in Ukraine, Olympism oscillates between realpolitik and hypocrisy

The IOC President’s speech comes as the International Ski Federation (FIS) has expressed its desire to allow representatives of the two countries to resume competition. The issue is to be discussed at the next meeting of the body, scheduled for the end of October.

“No discrimination based on nationality”

A measure also demanded by the International Boxing Federation (IBA), which however holds a special place in the sporting landscape: suspended by the IOC since 2019 for multiple failures, it has been chaired since 2020 by the Russian Umar Kremlev, not has not excluded Russians and Belarusians from its tournaments, and risks disappearing from the Olympics after 2024. The latter, moreover, suspended the Ukrainian Boxing Federation at the end of September, officially for “government interference”.

“The time has come to allow all other Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in all official competitions of their sports representing their countries”Kremlev said in a statement:

“The IOC and international federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. »

Beyond this problem arises that of the selections in national teams of the sportsmen playing in the Russian championships. Like basketball player Thomas Heurtel: Sunday, October 2, the leader of the Blues played his first minutes with Zénith Saint-Petersburg. However, to be able to compete in the Euro basketball in September, Heurtel had to sign – like the other players and the members of the management – ​​a sworn statement specifying that he was not engaged and would not engage. not with a Russian or Belarusian formation for the duration of the conflict with Ukraine, under penalty of losing his place in the national team.

Read also: Heurtel, Grebennikov, Da Costa… These French athletes who stay or go to Russia despite the war in Ukraine

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