IOC calls for international event ban for athletes from Russia and Belarus

The International Olympic Committee has recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes be prevented from competing in international events.

In a lengthy declaration on Monday afternoon, the IOC said it was acting with “a heavy heart” as it called for a ban on both Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials.

“In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants,” the statement said, “the IOC executive board recommends that international sports federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.”

The IOC did, however, leave some leeway in its statement. It suggested that organisers of tournaments taking place imminently could take different decisions.

“Wherever this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC EB strongly urges international sports federations and organisers of sports events worldwide to do everything in their power to ensure that … Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed.”

The IOC said it had adopted this condition specifically with the upcoming Winter Paralympics in mind, with the Games starting in Beijing on Friday. In a further measure the IOC said it would remove the honour of the Olympic Order from Vladimir Putin. The Olympic Order is the highest award granted by the Olympic movement and Putin was the recipient of a gold honour in 2001.

The IOC statement came on a day when the Ukrainian automotive association urged the FIA to ban all Russian drivers and teams from competing under its banner, including the F1 driver Nikita Mazepin. As Russia’s Daniil Medvedev took over the mantle of the men’s world No 1 tennis player from Novak Djokovic, his achievement was overshadowed by calls from the Ukrainian Tennis Federation for Russian and Belarusian players not to play in grand slams or ITF tournaments.

In a letter seen by Reuters, the Ukrainian federation described the actions of Russia and Belarus in Ukraine over the past four days as “unprecedented, cynical and bloody”.

“Civilians are dying, including women and children; civilian infrastructure is collapsing … This is a full-scale war that will push our country back decades,” the letter said, adding that the goal of Russia’s invasion was “extermination.”

“Russia and Belarus do not have the right not only to hold international competitions on their territory, but also to participate in all ITF team and individual tournaments abroad,” the letter continued.

The Ukrainian Tennis Federation board member Seva Kevlych, talking to Reuters from Kharkiv on Monday, said Medvedev and other Russian players should be barred from grand slam tournaments and the Russian Tennis Federation barred from the Davis Cup and Billie Jean Cup team events, of which they are the reigning champions.

“Let [Medvedev] play on the ATP Tour but grand slams are ITF events and if you lose the possibility to play in grand slams he could never be world No 1,” Kevlych said. “He shouldn’t play in the French Open, US Open and Wimbledon.

“I don’t care that Russia is the holder of the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup. It would shame them when the holders are kicked out of these events.”

The ITF said it had taken “swift action” to cancel all events in Russia indefinitely and that no ITF events would be held in Belarus for 2022.

Medvedev took to Twitter on Sunday with a plea for peace, although he did not comment on the current situation. “Today I want to speak on behalf of every kid in the world,” he said. “They all have dreams, their lives are just starting, so many nice experiences to come …

“That’s why I want to ask for peace in the world, for peace between countries. Kids are born with inner trust in the world, they believe so much in everything, in people, in love, in safety, in justice, in their chances in life. Let’s be together and show them that’s it true, because every kid shouldn’t stop dreaming.”

The Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina heaped pressure on the sport’s governing bodies to remove Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition. “We, Ukrainian players, requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems,” Svitolina posted on Instagram.

“Accordingly I want to announce that I will not play tomorrow in Monterrey, nor any other match against Russian or Belarusian tennis players until our organisations take this necessary decision. I do not blame any of the Russian athletes. They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland. Moreover, I wish to play tribute to all the players, especially Russians and Belarusians, who bravely stated their position against the war. Their support is essential.”

The 2021 French Open women’s singles runner-up, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, called for an end to violence and war in a social media post on Monday. “Personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence,” the Russian player said. “This takes away the future not only from us, but also from our children. Stop the violence, stop the war.”