Ukraine Accuses Olympic Committee of “Double Standards” Over Russia

March 24, 2023

Ukraine’s sports minister accused the International Olympic Committee of “double standards” for suggesting Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete in the 2024 Paris games.

Strongly opposing the IOC “exploring a pathway” for the athletes from the banned nations to take part, Vadym Guttsait said, “What’s changed? Nothing has changed. At first the IOC banned them, and now they are trying to allow them to compete.”

The IOC’s executive board is set to meet Tuesday in Switzerland, where the topic of sanctions against Russian and Belarusian athletes will be high on the agenda. 

The IOC had initially called on sporting federations to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. (Belarus is Russia’s closest ally in the war.) However, last month the committee opened up the possibility of the athletes participating in the Paris Olympics under a neutral flag, compelling 34 nations to demand the IOC clarify its definition of “neutrality” regarding the two countries.

On Thursday, Guttsait asserted that there must be “serious critera” to validate the neutrality of any Russian or Belarusian athlete allowed to compete. 

“They can’t just say, ‘we are for peace,’ and that’s it,” said Guttsait, who is also the head of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee.

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said on February 7 that Russia should be blocked from taking part in the Olympics in her city in 2024 if it continues its war against Ukraine. However, she conceded that the ultimate decision is up to the IOC.

The IOC is encouraging sports to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals, but it remains a decision for the individual federations.

On Thursday, World Athletics president said Sebastian Coe said his organization was keeping its ban in place, as it appears to be “the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions.” 

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