Russia hits out at Olympics supremos over athletes' return to competitions

By Paul Myers - RFI
MAR 29, 2023 LISTEN

A Russian government spokesman on Wednesday added to the discomfort of Olympic Games supremos with a broadside at their decision to usher Russian and Belarusian athletes back into  international competitions on certain conditions.

Dmitry Peskov branded the move discriminatory after the  International Olympic Committee said the competitors could participate provided they appeared as neutrals, had no links to the military and had not expressed support for the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Teams from Russia and Belarus would continue to be barred from events and athletes, the IOC said. And any athlete featuring at a meeting would not be allowed to display any national symbols.

"Such recommendations were characterised as containing elements of discrimination, which is unacceptable," said Kremlin spokesman Peskov.

"We will continue to defend the interests of our athletes in every possible way."

International Ban?
Athletes from Russia and Belarus, Moscow's ally, were banned from most international competitions following the start of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022.

On Tuesday, following a meeting of the IOC's executive board in the Swiss city of Lausanne, IOC boss Thomas Bach said the athletes fro the countries should not be penalised solely because of their passport.

Even though he said the IOC would decide at a later date whether Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete at the Paris Olympics, his declaration brought immediate condemnation.

The German government called the move a slap in the face for Ukrainian athletes.

"Ukrainian athletes deserve the solidarity of international sport," said Germany's sports minister Nancy Faeser.

"International sport must condemn Russia's brutal war of aggression in no uncertain terms. This can only be done with the complete exclusion of Russia and Belarusian athletes."

Piotr Wawrzyk, Poland's deputy foreign minister, said the IOC's executive board had gone through a day of shame.

Ukraine and some of its allies have threatened to boycott the Paris Games should Russian and Belarusian athletes compete – even as neutrals – if the war is still underway.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, said the IOC's statements had been an acknowledgment of their own mistake.

"The recommendations of the IOC, which have been in force for more than a year, are now disavowed," Pozdnyakov added.

"But the parameters and criteria announced for the return of Russians to international competitions are absolutely unacceptable."