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Latvia bans sports teams from playing Russia, Belarus

Latvia’s parliament on Thursday passed an amendment prohibiting its national sports teams from competing against Russia and Belarus, as a show of solidarity with war-torn Ukraine.

The ex-Soviet Baltic state, a NATO and EU member, has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Russia invaded the country nearly two years ago. 

The amendment to the sports law bans hockey, football, basketball and other national teams from playing Russia and its ally Belarus, regardless of whether they compete under their own or neutral flags. 

Lawmakers also approved another amendment that prohibits sporting event organisers in Latvia from inviting the Russian and Belarusian national teams.

“The main purpose of the amendments is to reiterate Latvia’s solidarity with Ukraine and to block any Russian attempts to legitimise its war crimes through peaceful means like sporting events,” lawmaker Davis Martins Daugavietis, head of the parliament’s sports subcommittee, said before the vote. 

The measure passed the 100-member parliament with 74 votes in favour and 11 against. 

If Latvia’s teams end up in a position to compete against Russia or Belarus at the 2024 Paris Games, for example, they will be prohibited from doing so under the new law. 

Many Latvian athletes have also been mulling a boycott of the Olympics if Russians are allowed to participate. 

The reigning Olympic champions in 3×3 basketball, who are from Latvia, have notably said their team will sit out the Summer Games if Russian athletes attend. 

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