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Russian Olympic chief says athletes must compete without restrictions

The head of Russia’s Olympic Committee said Tuesday that athletes representing Russia must not be subjected to different conditions from those of other countries, amid a growing row over their participation in the 2024 Paris Games.

“Russians must participate exactly on the same conditions as all other athletes. Any additional conditions or criteria are unwelcome, especially any that have political overtones, which are completely unacceptable for the Olympic movement,” Stanislav Pozdnyakov said, according to Russian news agencies.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said last week it was examining a “pathway” for Russians to take part in the summer Games next year, probably as neutral athletes rather than under their national flag.

Russia and its ally Belarus, which allowed its territory to be a stage ground for the offensive, have been sidelined from most Olympic sports since Russian forces invaded Ukraine last February.

That announcement sparked an immediate backlash from Kyiv, with a Ukrainian presidential aide accusing the IOC of being a “promoter of war”.

Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Games if Russians are allowed to take part.

Pozdnyakov said his organisation welcomed efforts by the IOC to allow Russian athletes to compete. 

“But as for additional conditions, we strongly disagree. The Olympic Charter states that all athletes must participate on an equal footing,” he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia’s participation in the Paris Olympics would amount to showing that “terror can allegedly be something acceptable”.

Zelensky also last week said he had invited IOC president Thomas Bach to visit the frontline Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, “so that he can see for himself that neutrality does not exist”.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Monday that of the 71 medals that Russian competitors won at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 45 were won by athletes who were members of the Central Sports Club of the Russian Army, or CSKA.

“The army that commits atrocities, kills, rapes, and loots,” Kuleba said. “This is whom the ignorant IOC wants to put under (the) white flag allowing (them) to compete.”

The Olympic Council of Asia, however, last week offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in this year’s Asian Games, arguing that “all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions”.

That was a significant move because it would allow athletes from those two countries to achieve qualifying standards they would need to compete in the Paris Olympics.

The IOC reiterated last week that the international federations for each Olympic sport were “the sole authority for its international competitions”.

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