Why are Sports Ministers against Russia participation as ‘neutrals’?

The IOC proposed last month that athletes from Belarus and Russia might compete internationally again as neutrals.

Lucy Frazer in a file photo (Image Credits - Twitter/ @lucyfrazermp)
By Abhiruchi Rout | Apr 26, 2023 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

The UK and French sports ministers raised concerns about the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendation to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete as neutrals. They claim that in spite of the sanctions placed on Russia and Belarus as a result of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which Minsk supported, these athletes might still receive funding from their governments. The IOC proposed last month that athletes from Belarus and Russia might compete internationally again as neutrals. As a result, some Olympic sports federations have taken action to help these athletes reintegrate. However, Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris 2024 Games unless Russian athletes withdraw from the event.

What did the British Minister of Culture, Media, and Sport, have to say?

The British Minister for Culture, Media, and Sport, Lucy Frazer, expressed her worries over the IOC recommendations’ omission of any mention of public finance during a Council of Europe parliamentary session. She also emphasized the inadequate provisions addressing military and national security agency ties. Frazer drew attention to the close ties between the Belarusian and Russian governments, militaries, and sports organizations, as well as the active backing of many Russian athletes for Putin’s invasion. 

Amelie Oudea-Castera, the Sports Minister of France, repeated Frazer’s worries, questioning the IOC’s stance on athletes funded or supported by the Russian or Belarusian states, or those receiving financial backing from businesses associated with Russia or Belarus. At a later time, the IOC is anticipated to make a final judgment about the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

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What was the head of United World Wrestling’s athletes’ commission’s stance?

Arsen Julfalakyan, the former wrestler from Armenia and the head of United World Wrestling’s athletes’ commission, spoke on behalf of the Olympic organization and spoke against the suspension of Athletes. Despite the violent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Julfalakyan never argued for the exclusion of Azerbaijani athletes. He emphasized the need to keep politics and sports apart and warned against the use of sports as a form of punishment. He insisted that the end of international sports would result from leaving such decisions up to the governments.

What has been Russia’s reaction?

Ukraine has forbidden its national teams from taking part in competitions that feature competitors from Russia and Belarus in addition to threatening a boycott. Andriy Chesnokov, the deputy minister of sports, informed the gathering that the Ukrainian government would not provide financial support for their teams’ participation in such contests. While the West has been criticized by Russia for what it sees as an unwarranted attempt to politicize sports for geopolitical gain.

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