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Updated Q&A regarding the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions

28 Jul 2023  – (Added on 28 July 2023)

The following Q&A addresses the current situation after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued recommendations for International Federations and international sports event organisers on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions, following a request by the Olympic Summit. 

This Q&A was first published on 31 March 2023, and the latest update was made on 28 July 2023. It replaces the Q&A which was published in early February 2023, before the IOC recommendations were released. 

What is the IOC’s reaction to the decision by the Ukrainian government to amend its decree with regard to Ukrainian athletes competing in international competitions against Individual Neutral Athletes?

This decision by the Ukrainian government will allow Ukrainian athletes to participate in international competitions and will enable them to qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. We are glad that they will be given this opportunity, and at the same time we are aware of the difficult inner conflicts they may have, given the aggression against their country. Therefore, we encourage International Federations to handle situations involving Ukrainian and Individual Neutral Athletes with the necessary degree of sensitivity. We continue to stand in full solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes and the Olympic community of Ukraine.

What is the reaction of the international community and political leaders to the IOC’s approach to the question of participation by athletes with a Russian or Belarussian passport in international competitions?

The IOC has received a lot of support. It is very encouraged by the fact that the vast majority of the international community understands the challenging situation for sport and supports its values-based course of action. This has been expressed by many statements from political leaders at the level of the United Nations, intergovernmental organisations and heads of state and government.

Just recently, in May 2023, the Group of Seven (G7) Leaders’ expressed support in a statement at their summit in Hiroshima/Japan. Early in July, the Non-Aligned Movement, chaired by Azerbaijan, which includes 120 of the 193 UN Member States, also declared its support.

The G7 statement says that the G7 are “fully respecting the autonomy of sporting organizations” and want to ensure that “Russian and Belarusian athletes are in no way appearing as representatives of their states”. This is fully aligned with the position of the IOC in this respect.

The IOC warmly welcomed the G7 support for the autonomy of sport and for the IOC’s recommendations on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport, only as individual, neutral athletes. This commitment to the autonomy of sports organisations comes at a crucial time, when it is threatened by a few governments. Therefore, the IOC is very grateful to the G7 Leaders for their unequivocal statement.

The G7 Summit is an international forum held annually for the leaders of the G7 member states of France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada (in order of rotating presidency), and the European Union (EU).

On 7 July, the IOC welcomed a Declaration by the Non-Aligned Movement which includes 120 of the 193 UN Member States. The Declaration, which was passed unanimously, emphasises that “the participation of athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees in Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games would be a strong symbol of unity of humanity.” In this respect, it expresses its “support to the efforts and initiatives undertaken by the International Olympic Committee to this end”.

This position is also fully aligned with the IOC recommendations for International Federations and international sports event organisers on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions, including qualifiers for the Olympic Games.

The IOC warmly welcomed the support by the 120 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement. It is greatly encouraged by this strong commitment to the unifying mission of the Olympic Games.

Read the full statement of the Non-Aligned Movement here.

The IOC has also taken note of the negative reactions, in particular from some European governments.

It is deplorable to see that some governments do not want to respect the majority within the Olympic Movement or the autonomy of sport which they are requesting from other countries, and are praising in countless speeches and UN and European Union resolutions.

It is deplorable that these governments do not address the question of double standards with which we were confronted in the consultation calls.

We have not seen a single comment from them about their attitude towards the participation of athletes whose countries are involved in the other 70 wars, armed conflicts and crises in the world.

It is even more deplorable that they grossly neglect the very clear statement of the two Special Rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights Council, while in other issues they are always highlighting their firm requests for the respect of human rights.

As stated by the UN Special Rapporteur: “The idea is not that we are going to recognise human rights to people who are like us and with whom we agree on their actions and on their behaviour. The idea is that anyone has the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their passport.”

Read the detailed explanation of the position of the UN Special Rapporteur here.

Discussions and reactions from the Olympic Movement are making it very clear that these governmental and political interventions have even strengthened the unity of the Olympic Movement.

All stakeholders made it very clear again: it cannot be up to the governments to decide which athlete can take part in which competitions. This would be the end of international sport as we know it. All the Olympic Movement stakeholders are very concerned about this. The IOC has received a letter signed by the Presidents of all five Continental Associations of NOCs, representing all 206 NOCs, welcoming the IOC recommendations in defence of the autonomy of sport which ensures that “international sports competitions welcome athletes from all countries”.

ASOIF, representing the 33 Summer Olympic International Federations “emphasised the necessity to prevent public authorities’ influence in sport matters”.

The Athletes’ Commissions from Asia and Africa welcomed the recommendations too, and some even wanted the IOC to go further.

The IOC has of course also seen the reactions from Russia, where the ROC says that: “the parameters and criteria announced for the return of Russians to international competitions are absolutely unacceptable”, and that the “decisions of the IOC Executive Board are nothing more than a farce (…) which grossly violates basic principles of the Olympic Charter and the UN Charter.”

In Russia, even before the publication of the recommendations, the IOC was already called “agents of the United States of America”.

Ukrainian representatives called the IOC recommendations unacceptable, and the IOC is portrayed as “siding with the Russians”, whose invasion the IOC has strongly condemned from the very beginning.

The IOC is also supporting the Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic Community in an unprecedented way, and this support continues to grow.

The fact that both sides in this confrontation are not satisfied might indicate that the IOC has found some middle ground on which all sides can move forward to make a contribution to understanding and peace.

The entire Olympic Movement strongly stands by its values to unite the world in peaceful competition.

How is the IOC navigating through this complex political situation to avoid the politicisation of sport?

The IOC is here to support the athletes of the entire world to make their Olympic dream come true. The IOC continues to promote the participation of every athlete who accepts the rules, respects the Olympic Charter and has qualified on the field of play.

And yet, despite offering a workable pathway forward with the IOC’s values-based recommendations, we are still confronted with two irreconcilable positions. The Russian side wants the IOC to ignore the war. The Ukrainian side wants the IOC to totally isolate anyone with a Russian and Belarusian passport. Both positions are diametrically opposed to the IOC’s mission and the Olympic Charter.

The IOC navigates such an intractable situation through its values, which are its compass. This is why the IOC’s athlete-centred recommendations address its core values of peace, unity, solidarity and non-discrimination.

It is not an easy solution. But extremely complex political problems do not have easy solutions. Only populists pretend to have simplistic solutions for the most complex problems in the world.

The IOC’s position is clear: We condemned the war from the first day. We imposed unprecedented sanctions on the Russian and Belarusian governments.

As a global organisation, the IOC has to manage a complex reality. The world is not black or white. We are confronted with a cacophony of views and competing interests that are trying to pull us in different directions.

While 141 countries have, like the IOC, condemned the war, the international community is not as united when it comes to consequences of this condemnation. The IOC has learnt that 52 governments, representing only 15 per cent of the world population, have, like the IOC, imposed sanctions on the Russian and Belarusian governments. This is not to say that one side is right and the other is wrong. This is just to describe the reality of a divided and fragmented world.

While the IOC sees very encouraging signs that, overall, its values-based approach is working, the different interests are still trying to pull it in different directions.

There is the Russian side, which considers the strict conditions to be unacceptable, humiliating and discriminatory. The Russian government accuses the IOC of acting against its political neutrality, while at the same time this very same government is shamelessly trying to put together fully politicised sports competitions.

There is the Ukrainian side, which denounces the IOC for siding with Russia. Its government  insists on the “total isolation” of all Russians and Belarusians, because it considers everyone with a Russian or Belarusian passport to be a supporter of the war. This even goes as far as banning athletes with intellectual disabilities from taking part in the recent Special Olympics.

The vast majority of the Olympic Movement stakeholders from across the globe – the athletes, the National Olympic Committees from all five continents, the continental associations and the International Federations: this overwhelming majority is calling on the IOC to continue with its athlete-centred approach to find a pathway – a values-based course of action – that defends the rights of all athletes.

In this time when our autonomy is being undermined by some governments; in this time when some forces want to divide the global sports movement; in these challenging times, this unity is fundamental for the future of values-based truly global sport.

If these divisive political forces were to succeed in their efforts to decide which athlete can compete in which competition, then we will end up with sports competitions only among athletes from like-minded political blocs. The Games of Political Bloc A. The Games of Political Bloc B. And probably separate Games for those countries which do not want to align themselves in one way or another.

In such politicised sport, universal Olympic Games will no longer be possible and World Championships, in the true sense of the term, will no longer be possible. This politicisation would be the weaponisation of sport. This goes against everything sport and the Olympic Movement stand for.

How are the IOC’s athlete-centred recommendations for International Federations and international sports event organisers on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions working?

The overwhelming majority of the world’s athletes respect or support the IOC’s approach. The IOC is encouraged by the many IFs that have organised international sports events and even world championships successfully applying our recommendations.

At the European level, the Individual European Fencing Championships took place in Bulgaria in June. The International Fencing Federation had moved these championships from Poland to Bulgaria because the Polish government had interfered in the autonomy of sport by refusing to issue visas for individual neutral athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports. This necessary relocation to protect the autonomy of sport proved to be successful. In Bulgaria, individual neutral athletes were able to participate. At the same time, it is important to note that Ukrainian athletes participated in the championships as well. However, the Ukrainian athletes were allowed to compete only in those disciplines in which individual neutral athletes did not participate.

At the global level, the World Judo Championships took place in Qatar with the participation of individual neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport. These Championships were very successfully organised.

The World Taekwondo Championships held in Azerbaijan are another example of successful world championships organised with the participation of individual neutral athletes. There was even a record number of national federations taking part.

The IOC is also pleased by the success of the inaugural Olympic Esports Week that took place in Singapore, where the IOC recommendations were strictly applied, which enabled players from Ukraine and players with a Russian passport to compete peacefully together.

Contrary to what the naysayers were predicting, none of these competitions collapsed in chaos. All the respective IFs applied our recommendations and strict conditions. In the process, they rejected a number of applicants who wanted to compete as individual neutral athletes because they did not fulfil these strict conditions.

All the championships took place without incident. The athletes competed with respect for each other and with respect for the rules of sport. Through statements and in conversations, the athletes made it clear that they want to compete against the best athletes of the world, no matter where they come from. They want to feel like true world or European champions. They do not want to see any athlete being punished for the actions of their government.

What is the IOC’s reaction to the decision by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to allow individual neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport to compete in the Asian Games?

This was the principle agreement to the proposal that was made by the then OCA President at the Olympic Summit in December 2022, and in line with the recommendations of the IOC Executive Board on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions. Discussions on if and how this can be implemented are ongoing.

What is the situation of Ukrainian athletes in competitions in which individual, neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport take part?

Many of them would like to qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. In order to qualify, they would need to compete internationally now. Yet, at the judo and taekwondo world championships the Ukrainian athletes were absent, because they had not been allowed to participate, following the instructions of the Ukrainian sports ministry. In other words, Ukrainian athletes are being sanctioned by their own government for the war that has been started by the Russian and Belarusian governments.

It is hard to understand why the Ukrainian government is depriving its own athletes of their chance to qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and to make the Ukrainian people proud. It is hard to understand why Ukrainian athletes are allowed to compete in tennis but not in table tennis. It is hard to understand why they are allowed to compete in cycling but not in swimming. It is hard to understand why in fencing, a Ukrainian athlete can compete in discipline A, while his teammate cannot compete in discipline B.

In this context, we recall the statement of the Ukrainian Tennis Federation from March 2023, in which it said: “With this appeal, we express a common position regarding the possible decision of the NOC on a complete boycott by the players of all international tournaments where Russians or Belarusians play. Such a decision will lead to the destruction of Ukrainian tennis, because players from these countries take part in almost every competition, and will become a sanction not against the Russians, but against the Ukrainians. If Russians and Belarusians are allowed to compete, you need to play with them and win, and not avoid the battle.”

This is what the entire Olympic community and in fact the entire world are longing for: Ukrainian athletes shining brightly in international competitions. We all want them to have the opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. This means participating now in the qualification events, so that they can make the Ukrainian people proud – showing the resilience of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Olympic community.

The IOC wants to give them this opportunity to qualify and finally participate in the Olympic Games. Therefore, through the respective International Federations, the IOC will support every Ukrainian athlete in their preparation and participation in any competition that they want to take part in. Athletes who want to compete but would lose the support of their National Sports Federation and their National Olympic Committee because of government interference, can count on the direct support of the Olympic Movement’s Solidarity Fund for the Olympic community of Ukraine and the IOC’s athlete support programmes.

What impact do the IOC recommendations from 28 March 2023 have on the IOC Members in Russia?

In order to avoid having different standards for the athletes, the national officials and the IOC Members in Russia, the same conditions to participate in the IOC’s international events will apply.

The IOC Ethics Commission has noted that two of the conditions mentioned in the IOC Executive Board’s recommendations will apply to the IOC Members:

1) their active support for the war; and

2) their contractual situation vis-à-vis the Russian military or national security agencies.

The situation of the IOC Members concerned will be assessed from the time of the invasion on 24 February 2022 and subsequently. Considering the second point, the past contractual situation of the Members before the beginning of the war will not be taken into consideration. These guidelines are being applied to both the IOC Members and Honorary Members.

Will the Russian and Belarusian NOCs receive an invitation for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 when the invitations are sent on 26 July 2023?

The current IOC recommendations for International Federations and international sports event organisers on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions do not concern the participation of athletes and their support personnel with a Russian or Belarusian passport at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 or the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026. The IOC will take this decision at the appropriate time, at its full discretion, and without being bound by the results of previous Olympic qualification competitions.

The invitations to the 203 eligible NOCs will be sent on 26 July 2023. For the reasons given, this will exclude the NOCs of Russia and Belarus, plus the NOC of Guatemala, which is currently suspended.

What has changed since 28 February 2022 when the IOC Executive Board (EB) recommended no participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials?

The IOC EB took protective measures immediately at the time, with a heavy heart and expressing the dilemma it faced. It was against the mission of the Olympic Games that the IOC had to recommend not to invite athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport because of government interference as governments were starting to decide who can take part in which competition. Some of the governments threatened to withdraw funding if athletes would participate in a certain competition. And this the IOC could not allow, because this is against every principle of the international sports system, which must be based on sport and not on political decisions about who can participate.

There was also the possibility of security risks for Russian or Belarusian athletes participating in competitions due to the very emotional situation in a number of countries.

These were the two reasons for the protective measures; to ensure the security and integrity of competitions and to ensure that qualification to take part in an international competition was based on sporting merit and not on political decisions such as denial of visas or threatening of athletes, National Federations or National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

Firstly, the most important thing that has changed since February 2022 is that participation of neutral athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports in competitions and international competitions has already been  ……………….. TO READ THE ENTIRE ORIGINAÖL ARTICLE CLICK HERE

Source: IOC NEWS

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