International Olympic Committee (IOC) has warned Ukraine against boycotting qualifying events for next year’s Olympics in Paris due to the presence of Russians and Belarusians, claiming it will “only hurt” Ukrainian athletes and “in no way impact the war that the world wants to stop”.
The Ukrainian Government announced yesterday that athletes from the country would boycott any Olympic qualifier where Russian and Belarusian athletes are competing.
The move has led to criticism from the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), claiming it represented a “clear politicisation of sport”.
The IOC echoed the ANOC’s comments, insisting it was “not up to Government to decide which athletes can participate in which international competitions”.
“If implemented, such a decision would only hurt the Ukrainian athlete community, and in no way impact the war that the world wants to stop, and that the IOC has so vehemently condemned,” a statement from the IOC read.
“If implemented, such a decision would also go against the position of a number of Ukrainian athletes and other members of the Ukrainian Olympic community.”
The IOC referenced a statement from the Ukrainian Tennis Federation which claimed that any decision by the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine (NOCU) and the country’s Sport Ministry to ban athletes from competing against Russians and Belarusians would lead to “the destruction of tennis”.
According to the IOC, there are 70 armed conflicts and crises going on in the world at the moment.
“National Olympic Committees in the regions impacted by these armed conflicts and wars are following the principles of the Olympic Charter,” the IOC added.
“They are not requesting the exclusion of athletes from the other party in the armed conflict or war, and they are allowing their athletes to compete in international sporting competitions without restrictions.”
Russian and Belarusian athletes have been largely banned from international sport since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Following a meeting of the IOC Executive Board last week, it was recommended that athletes from the two nations should be allowed to return to the global sporting stage as neutrals as long as they do not support the war in Ukraine and are affiliated to the military.
NOCU President and Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Guttsait reportedly staged a meeting with Ukrainian sports federations to discuss the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes following the IOC’s decision.
According to Ukrainian news website Tribuna, which revealed details of the meeting, Guttsait said he understood back in December that there was a push for Russians to return to sport.
Guttsait also revealed that IOC members held a call with representatives from more than 200 countries on March 27.
“African, Asian and Latin American countries support the return [of Russians and Belarusians],” said Guttsait.