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22 Mar, 2024 15:59

Olympic legend tells Russians to participate in Paris games

Qualifying athletes should compete, regardless of the discriminatory policies against them, Aleksandr Karelin says
Olympic legend tells Russians to participate in Paris games

Russian competitors who have qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics should take part in the games despite all the pressure on them and the organizers’ hostile policies, Greco-Roman wrestling legend Aleksandr Karelin believes.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the three-time Olympic champion – now a senator in the upper house of Russia’s parliament – said the athletes should only boycott the event if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) goes even further with its restrictions.

“I am convinced that those Russian athletes who have gone through series of discriminatory, tendentious, unacceptable demands, have won Olympic licenses, should participate in the Olympic Games in Paris, unless this comes with demands to renounce citizenship, our state, our victorious history, and is not accompanied by other requirements, devoid of common sense and violating ethical standards,” Karelin stated.

Athletes should head to Paris with the “will to win” and demonstrate their “best qualities,” the former champion added.

For more than a decade the IOC has imposed tough requirements on Russia over doping allegations, banning its national anthem and flag at previous games. The situation has deteriorated further since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

This week, the IOC announced that the maximum number of Russians who can qualify for the Paris Games this summer is 55, while Moscow’s closest ally, Belarus, is restricted to just 28. The IOC noted that the teams are unlikely to actually meet the quota, with some 36 Russian and 22 Belarusian athletes expected to make it to the games.

The competitors are allowed to participate as neutrals in individual sports, with both countries barred from team sports altogether.

Any athletes who have publicly supported the military operation against Ukraine, or who have links to the Russian military or state security agencies, are barred from the Olympics.

Athletes from all countries are required to meet anti-doping criteria and sign the so-called Conditions of Participation for Paris, which oblige them to respect the Olympic Charter, including “the peace mission of the Olympic Movement.”

The IOC requirements have been condemned by Moscow, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stating that the governing body “destroys Olympic ideals and discriminates against the interests of Olympians” with its polices. The restrictions imposed on Russian and Belarusian athletes are “absolutely contrary to the entire ideology of the Olympic movement,” he stressed.