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IOC admits Russian athletes to the Olympics

Since Russia's attack on Ukraine, the debate about how to deal with Russian athletes and their admission to the Summer Games has been raging. Now the IOC has made its decision.

Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to take part in the Olympic Games in Paris as
Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to take part in the Olympic Games in Paris as neutral athletes.

Olympic Games - IOC admits Russian athletes to the Olympics

231 days before the Olympic opening ceremony, Thomas Bach's IOC has ended the game of time and paved the way for Russia's athletes to compete in Paris.

The head of the International Olympic Committee granted individual athletes from Russia and Belarus permission to compete in the 2024 Summer Games, subject to certain conditions, provided they meet the qualification requirements. In doing so, the IOC led by President Bach was responding to a request from the international summer sports federations and the National Olympic Committees to finally make a decision on this issue, which has been controversial since the start of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.

As is already the case for the return to international competitions, the condition is that Russians and Belarusians may only participate in Paris under a neutral flag. Teams are not permitted. This means that athletes from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to play their national anthem at the Olympics in Paris, and national symbols and flags are also prohibited.

Furthermore, these athletes must not have any connection to the army or security forces and must not have actively shown their support for the war in Ukraine. It remains unclear how this access restriction is to be checked and safeguarded across the board. In addition, the anti-doping guidelines must be met - another requirement whose implementation is likely to cause debate in world sport given Russia's long list of doping offenders.

Eight Russians and three Belarusians qualified

As an additional condition, the IOC requires all athletes to make a written commitment to the Olympic Charter and thus also to the "peace mission of the Olympic Movement". According to the IOC, eight Russians and three Belarusians have so far qualified for the Olympics in Paris.

In turn, more than 60 Ukrainians are among the 4600 athletes already eligible to take part. Wadym Hutzajt, head of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, had reiterated his call for a complete ban on Russian athletes shortly before the IOC decision. A ban must remain in place "until Russian troops have been withdrawn from Ukraine and the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been restored within its internationally recognized borders".

In Russia, on the other hand, the IOC decision was welcomed as expected. "I am very happy that the IOC has made a humane decision," said former figure skating coach Tatyana Tarasova to the "Sport Express" portal. "This is a great victory," Tarasova added.

Following Russia's attack on Ukraine, Russians and Belarusians were initially banned from international sports competitions. Belarus supports Russia in the conflict. However, the IOC had already reopened the door to the major sporting stages for both countries in the spring and defined the framework for participation in competitions.

Criticism from Germany too

This should also enable the athletes to meet the qualification criteria for the Summer Games. A number of world federations have followed the IOC's guidelines in recent months and allowed Russians and Belarusians to compete again. The group of international athletics federations that continue to bar athletes from both countries has steadily shrunk in recent months.

The majority of the international athletics community is also in favor of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, the IOC has repeatedly assured. However, the German Athletes' Association criticized the umbrella organization's line: "This does not stop the instrumentalization of sport and athletes for Putin's war propaganda. The instrument does not appear to be suitable and is fraught with considerable practical implementation problems."

The governing body had left the decision on Olympic participation open until the very end. In September, the International Paralympic Committee also lifted its complete ban on Russia and allowed Russian disabled athletes to compete at the Paralympics in Paris under a neutral flag. This was already seen as a harbinger of a corresponding decision by the IOC.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation had also recently changed its course with reference to the majority opinion in international sport and argued in favor of Russians and Belarusians competing in Paris. "We welcome the maintenance of the strict sports sanctions against Russia and Belarus and the clarity that now prevails," said DOSB President Thomas Weikert in an initial reaction on Friday. With regard to the conditions specified by the IOC, he added: "It is now important to continue to implement these conditions consistently."

Dispute between the IOC and Russia

Even the recent dispute between the IOC and Russia did not prevent the Olympic approval. The IOC Executive Board had suspended the ROC due to the inclusion of regional sports federations in occupied Ukrainian territories in the Russian National Olympic Committee (ROC). The decision on October 5 to include the regional sports federations of Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhia violated the Olympic Charter because it disregarded the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, it said.

In the course of its decision, the IOC pointed out that, in addition to the summer sports federations, many athletes and Olympic committees, many governments would also support its course. In addition, the World Anti-Doping Agency had established that doping tests in Russia were safe despite the war. More than 10,500 tests had been carried out on Russian athletes this year.

The head of the board of the National Anti-Doping Agency, Lars Mortsiefer, on the other hand, had recently feared continuing gaps in testing and spoke of "major stomach pains" if Russian athletes were allowed to compete in the Olympics.

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