Most unwanted? How sport relates to the Russian problem – The Mail & Guardian

Players of the Russian national team pose for a team photo before the friendly match between Russia and Iran at the Azadi Stadium on March 23, 2023 in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

International sports organizations are taking a wide variety of positions on allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams to compete while the war in Ukraine continues.

With less than 500 days left before the Paris Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it wants to maintain a ban on the two countries’ “flags, anthems, colors or any other identification” but is looking for a way to allow their athletes to compete. .

This strategy will be discussed again next week when the IOC Executive Board meets.

Here, AFP Sport looks at how the sport deals with this dilemma.


While World Athletics on Thursday lifted the ban on the Russian Athletics Federation for state-sponsored doping, its athletes remain barred from competition while Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine continues. The organization’s president, Sebastian Coe, said the “unprecedented sanctions” imposed on Russia and Belarus by countries around the world “seem to be the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace.”


Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to participate in the main ATP and WTA tours, but not under their flags or country names. They are prohibited from participating in Davis Cup and BJ Cup tournaments. Players from Russia and Belarus were also excluded from Wimbledon last year, although Moscow-born Yelena Rybakina, who played for Kazakhstan, won the women’s singles title.


Russia has been excluded from the 2022 World Cup qualification and excluded from the Euro 2024 qualification which started this week. Instead, Russia held a friendly match in Iran.

Belarus is not banned from participating in Euro qualifiers, but they must play their home matches in neutral stadiums while their clubs are still allowed to compete in European tournaments.

The head of the Russian Football Union, Denis Rogachev, said that “negotiations are underway” to participate in the Central Asian Championship in June and that “a negotiation process is underway with UEFA and FIFA on a phased return.”


The sport has yet to lift the ban on Russians and Belarusians, meaning neither has yet qualified for Paris or for this year’s World Championships in October. The next opportunity for teams and individuals to reserve places at the World Championships where Olympic places will be up for grabs is the European Championships in Turkey in April. The Russians and Belarusians were not included in the European draw on Tuesday, which is the deadline for participation in the competition. Switching to Asia could open the Olympic path for Russians.


Russian fighters were allowed to compete in the recent Women’s World Boxing Championships in India, prompting boycotts from countries such as the US, Ukraine, Canada, Sweden and the UK.

formula one

Theoretically, drivers from Russia and Belarus can act as “neutral” drivers in Formula 1. But the only Russian racer Nikita Mazepin was thrown out shortly before the start of the 2022 season by the Haas team. F1 has also removed the Sochi Grand Prix from its 2022 schedule and canceled plans for an annual race in St. Petersburg. Petersburg from this season.


Russia and the Soviet Union have won the annual Ice Hockey World Championship seven times, but on Thursday the International Ice Hockey Federation banned them for the second year in a row, saying “the restoration of the Russian and Belarusian teams is not yet safe.”


Ahead of the start of the Olympic qualification process, the International Fencing Federation decided on March 10 to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to take part, although it said it was up to the IOC whether they could compete in Paris. In response, the German, Finnish and Swedish fencing organizations canceled the events they were supposed to host.


The Russians and Belarusians were disqualified for the World Championships in Budapest in June and July last year. At the moment, water sports are among those playing the waiting game. FINA’s governing body told AFP in February: “There are currently no further updates regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in water sports competitions.” This means they are still barred from participating in the Fukuoka World Championships in July, but the sport’s Olympic rules mean swimmers have until the end of next June to meet qualifying results.

© Agence France-Presse