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Polish deputy FM slams IOC’s recommendation for Russian athletes’ return to sports events

28.03.2023 23:30
The International Olympic Committee’s recommendation to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to gradually return to international competitions as “neutrals” marked “a day of shame for the IOC,” a Polish deputy foreign minister has said. 
Piotr Wawrzyk
Piotr WawrzykPR24/MS

Piotr Wawrzyk made the assessment in an interview with Polish state news agency PAP on Tuesday. 

He called the IOC’s move “a very bad decision” that would “serve [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s propaganda.”

“It’s a day of absolute shame for the IOC,” Wawrzyk said.  

IOC recommends return of Russian, Belarusian athletes as neutrals 

The IOC’s Executive Board announced the recommendations at a news conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, earlier in the day.

IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters: "Sports organisations must have the sole responsibility to decide which athletes can take part in international competitions based on their sporting merits and not on political grounds or because of their passports."

Bach added that the IOC recommendations for events organisers and sports federations to follow stated that Russian and Belarusian athletes “can only compete as neutrals, with no flag or anthem,” the Reuters news agency reported.

Moreover, these athletes cannot participate in team events and must have a proven drugs testing record, according to officials. 

Further, athletes who actively support Russia’s war in Ukraine, are contracted to their countries' armed forces or represent army-based clubs are excluded, the PAP news agency reported.

Bach told reporters that the new recommendation “does not concern” the 2024 Paris Olympics and whether Russia and Belarus can participate in that event.

He said: "The IOC will take this decision at the appropriate time at its full discretion, without being bound by results of previous Olympic qualifiers."

The IOC imposed sanctions on Russia and Belarus after the Kremlin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but the sports body is now eager to see Russian and Belarusian athletes come back across all sports, with a chance to qualify for the Paris Games, the Reuters news agency reported.

The IOC had already prepared a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to qualify for the 2024 Olympics through qualifying tournaments in Asia, according to news outlets. 

However, Ukraine had threatened to boycott next year's Games if Russians and Belarusians are allowed to take part, even as neutrals, reporters were told.

‘Day of shame’

Poland’s Wawrzyk said the IOC's move begged the question of “what has changed” since the start of Russia’s invasion.

"What has changed after what happened in Ukraine’s Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, after Russia's daily shelling of civilian facilities, to prompt the IOC to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in international competitions,” Wawrzyk said in a tweet.

He added: “It’s a day of absolute shame for the IOC.”

Wawrzyk also said that "if the IOC stands by its decision," Poland should boycott international sports events, "including the Olympics, if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to take part in them."

Wawrzyk argued that "to have an impact," the boycott should be held by “a wider group of countries,” such as the member states of the European Union or countries that work together to impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. 

Another Polish deputy foreign minister, Paweł Jabłoński, has said that allowing Russian athletes to take part in the Olympic Games would be an act of “extreme hypocrisy” since one of the core Olympic values is peace. 

Tuesday was day 398 of Russia’s war against Ukraine.


Source: PAP, Reuters