Russia & Belarus athletes: which countries support ban - UK stance, IOC position ahead of Paris 2024 Olympics

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UK confirm they will continue pledging support for ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes

It is nearly a year to the day that Russia invaded Ukraine and the war continues to rage, with Vladimir Putin using his annual address to the Federal Assembly to continue his criticisms on the expansion of the NATO military alliance as an excuse for the invasion.

Following the invasion, the UK, along with many other countries, then banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in sporting events with stars such as tennis’ Daniil Medvedev being unable to compete in Wimbledon 2022 and former Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin being fired from Haas.

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A year on, the UK and over 30 other nations have now pledged to continue this ban. A joint-statement has been released following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recent proposal to develop a pathway for athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus to compete at the Paris Olympics next year under a neutral flag but the statement has now said: “We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ when they are directly funded and supported by their states.”

France is one such country who has signed the joint-statement and as it is the host country of the next Olympics and Paralympics, it is highly significant. The statement has also been signed by 2021 hosts Japan; 2026 Winter Olympic Italy and 2028 Summer Olympic hosts the United States.

Nikita Mazepin for Haas in pre-season testing February 2022 before the warNikita Mazepin for Haas in pre-season testing February 2022 before the war
Nikita Mazepin for Haas in pre-season testing February 2022 before the war | Getty Images

What does the statement say?

The following comes directly from the Gov.UK website, detailing the UK’s stance and the joint statement has been released following recent proposals from the International Olympic Committee.

  • The situation in Ukraine has continued to deteriorate since the IOC barred Russian and Belarusian athletes last year - following their nations’ violation of the Olympic truce - and there is no reason for the IOC to reverse that decision;
  • There are serious concerns about how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete on a neutral basis given they are directly funded and supported by their states. As long as a workable ‘neutrality’ model is not set out in detail, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be allowed back into competition;
  • There are clear concerns over the strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military;
  • The IOC must address the questions identified by all countries and reconsider its proposal;
  • Russia and Belarus can pave the way for their athletes’ full return to the international sports community by ending the war they started.

What has the UK said?

In response to the collective statement, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has said, which has also been published on the government’s website: “We agree that Putin cannot use sport to legitimise his actions on the world stage. This coalition of nations has supported Ukraine on multiple fronts and we will continue to do so.

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“Today we are setting out our serious concerns with the International Olympic Committee’s plans which could see a route back into elite athletics for Russia and Belarus. Any plans to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in Paris are not credible. With the prospect of tanks from the United Kingdom, United States and European partners arriving in Ukraine over the coming weeks, and President Zelenskyy expressing serious concerns that a spring offensive by Russia is imminent, we urge the IOC to reconsider its position.”

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