Figure-skating legend launches campaign over Russian flag
Renowned Russian figure skater Alexei Yagudin has added his weight to the debate surrounding his country’s national symbols in the sporting arena, calling for an end to a ban which will continue during the upcoming Games in China.
Less than a week before the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Games, Olympic gold medalist Yagudin has launched an online petition urging fans to "tilt the balance in favor of justice" and take a step towards restoring Russia’s national symbols at the world’s biggest winter sports spectacle.
Russia will not be able to use its name, flag or anthem at the upcoming Olympics after a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in 2019, which halved the four-year ban initially proposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over alleged doping violations.
Russian athletes are allowed to compete at the biggest sports events, including the World Championships and Olympic Games, if they are not banned for doping or suspected of offenses.
In Tokyo, Russian competitors represented the Russian Olympic Committee, using the acronym ROC instead of their country’s name.
Yagudin, who won the men’s figure skating event at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, called the WADA-imposed restrictions “totally unfair” and asked his social media followers not to remain indifferent towards the ban.
"Being in touch with our team members, I know how intensively and arduously they’ve been preparing for this event," he said. "Their unbelievable hard work inspires nothing but deep respect.
“It’s not a secret that much time has passed since my own Olympic performance but I still clearly remember those amazing moments of true happiness: when the national flag is raised and the national anthem is played in your honor while you receive the coveted Olympic gold medal – the main prize of the entire sporting career. I sincerely wish our athletes could also feel those moments.
“That’s why it is totally unfair that our team will again compete without a flag. WADA imposed another set of sanctions in 2019 prohibiting our athletes from using the national symbols.
“So I decided to launch a petition which can be signed by anyone who supports our sport. In my opinion, every sincere step can change the situation and tilt the balance in favor of justice."
The four-time world champion expressed hope that the petition could influence WADA’s position on the flag-banning rule.
“Even if it’s not noticed by WADA, this petition will be seen by many who worry about Russia’s fate on the international stage. I personally, like millions of Russian fans, will continue to support Russia and Russian athletes regardless of what flag, anthem, and coat of arms they will compete under.
“I’m sure that every word in support of our team, every move, every step will bring us close to justice.
“I’m absolutely sure that everything will change soon. But it can happen only on condition that we will not remain indifferent. I know, nothing passes without a trace. We will win."
The Winter Olympics in Beijing will run from February 4-20. Russian athletes will compete under a neutral flag, with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 being played in medal ceremonies instead of the national anthem.