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Russian wrestling star Sadulaev barred from Olympic qualifiers

Russia’s two-time Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev has been excluded from qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Games this week because of his support of the war in Ukraine, the sport’s governing body said on Thursday.

Known as the “Russian Tank”, Sadulaev won Olympic gold in 2016 in the 86kg category, and the 97kg title in Tokyo 2021. 

The 27-year-old had been hoping to earn his berth for the Paris Games from July 26-August 11 as a neutral athlete in the 97kg category having withdrawn from last year’s world championships due to injury.

But Sadulaev has been declared “ineligible” by United World Wrestling (UWW) before the European qualifiers in Baku from April 5-7 after “new information” of his “support” for the Ukraine-Russia war was found.

“Sadulaev has been ruled out of the European OG Qualifiers in Baku after he failed to meet the eligibility criteria set by the International Olympic Committee for Individual Neutral Athletes,” UWW said in a statement.

An UWW eligibility panel discovered the five-time world champion was still an official member of Dynamo Moscow, a sports club linked to the Russian leadership.

The IOC suspended Russia from the 2024 Games last year, but gave the green light for its athletes to compete as neutrals as long as they did not actively support the Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine.

“Each Individual Neutral Athlete goes through a rigorous vetting process by UWW in preparation for any tournament and is examined based on the criteria set by the IOC which rules thorough background and social media checks of individuals from Russia and Belarus,” the UWW added.

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