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11 Mar, 2022 17:08

IOC chief dismisses ‘politicization’ of sport in fresh attack on Russia

Thomas Bach reiterated that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be suspended wherever possible
IOC chief dismisses ‘politicization’ of sport in fresh attack on Russia

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has claimed it is a “cheap argument” to suggest that bans imposed on Russian and Belarusian athletes is a “politicization of sport” in the wake of the military offensive in Ukraine.

The IOC recommended last month that all Russian and Belarusian athletes be suspended from international competitions wherever possible – a position which has since been followed by dozens of sporting federations.

Doubling down on that stance and the idea that international tournaments should not be held in Russia and Belarus, IOC chief Bach argued that any claims of sport being undermined by politics were wide of the mark.

“We will not fall into the trap of the cheap argument that this would be a politicization of sport, going against the Olympic Charter which requires political neutrality,” Bach said in a wordy IOC statement issued on Friday titled ‘Give Peace a Chance’.  

“Whoever so blatantly violates the Olympic Truce with political and even military means cannot denounce the consequences as being politically motivated,” the German official added.  

Bach said the IOC recognized that the military operation in Ukraine “has not been started by the Russian people, Russian athletes or Russian sports organizations,” but claimed the organization was facing “an insoluble dilemma... because we have the great responsibility to ensure the integrity, fairness and safety of our competitions.”

The IOC chief also said the organization had to “consider the safety risks for Russian and Belarusian athletes taking part in international competitions, because of deep anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian feelings” after Moscow launched its operation in Ukraine.

The sweeping sanctions on Russian and Belarusian athletes in sports ranging from karate to canoeing has led to anger in Russia and accusations of discrimination as athletes are deprived of their livelihoods.

The Russian and Belarusian Paralympic teams were barred from this month’s Beijing Winter Games just one day before the event was due to begin, after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) reversed a previous decision to allow them to compete as neutrals, citing the threat of boycotts and “the influence of governments” behind the scenes.

The Russian Union of Athletes has described the sanctions as “sporting genocide,” noting the lack of any similar action against countries which have engaged in conflicts around the world in past years.