More than 30 like-minded nations, including the United Kingdom, United States, France and Germany, have pledged their ongoing support for a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in international sporting competitions as long as the war in Ukraine continues.
The countries have published a joint statement setting out their concern following recent proposals from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which suggest a pathway is being explored to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition, including the 2024 Olympic Games.
As we approach one year since the invasion of Ukraine began, the statement makes clear that:
- 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.
The support of France, as host country of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Greece, as the birthplace of the Olympics, is significant. It has also been signed by 2021 hosts Japan, Italy who will host the 2026 Winter Olympics, and the Summer Olympic hosts in 2028, the United States.
It comes following UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer chairing a summit on February 10 of ministerial and senior representatives from a group of nations opposed to the plans. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the delegates and set out his firm opposition to the proposals.
In response to the collective statement, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:
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.
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.