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Eight Russian judokas barred from world championships after Ukraine boycotts

The International Judo Federation on Tuesday barred eight members of  Russia’s world championships squad following Ukraine’s boycott over the presence of Russian athletes it argued were active soldiers.

Judo’s governing body the IJF said ahead of the May 7-14 championships in Qatar that it had “commissioned independent background checks on the athletes and delegates to ensure both their place of employment and any social media interactions regarding pro-war propaganda”.

As a result of those checks, “eight members of the delegation were rejected”.

The IJF added that it will “continue to monitor the situation and conduct further investigations to ensure that all athletes are participating ethically and in accordance with the rules and regulations of the sport and the judo values.”

Judokas from Russia and Belarus were given the green light to compete in Doha by the IJF on the proviso they do so as individual neutral athletes.

But when it announced it was boycotting the championships in Qatar, the Ukrainian judo federation alleged that “the majority of the (Russian) team are athletes who are active servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation”.

Explaining their decision to ban eight members of the Russian team, the IJF said: “Only athletes employed at the Federal Training Sport Center of the representative teams of Russia and athletes for whom no information was identified suggesting support for or views on the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been approved.

“We strive to ensure that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or background, have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, without discrimination.”

Among the Russian judokas listed for the world championships are Inal Tasoev who won a title at the world military championships in Paris in 2021, Mikhail Igolnikov, third in the under-90kg category at those same championships, Tamerlan Bashaev, who beat a Ukrainian to take the heavyweight bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, and 2021 60kg world champion Yago Abuladze.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was honorary president and international ambassador of the IJF from 2008 until he was suspended from the post in 2022.

The International Olympic Committee last month recommended allowing athletes from Russia and Belarus, who have been banned from international competition, to compete as individual neutrals.

IOC president Thomas Bach said the ban would continue to apply to Russian and Belarusian “athletes who actively support the war” as well as “athletes who are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies”.

While the IOC said Russians and Belarusians should be allowed to compete in Olympic qualifying as neutrals it is yet to make a decision on participation at next year’s Games in Paris.

The call to allow Russians to return angered Ukraine and many of its allies.

But Moscow condemned what it calls “discrimination on the basis of nationality” and says all athletes must be allowed to compete.

The majority of places in the judo competition at the 2024 Olympics in Paris will be allocated on the basis of ranking points accumulated after June 24 last year.

So far, no Russian or Belarusian athlete is listed on the IJF site as having any points. Eight Ukrainians are listed as on track for qualification with three more close behind.

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