‘Foreigners will apologize for Russophobia’ – ski chief
Russian cross-country skiing boss Elena Vyalbe says foreign rivals will apologize for their “Russophobia” once they realize they have behaved inappropriately, adding that her nation simply needs to endure the current sporting sanctions.
Russian skiers have been among those affected by sweeping international bans since Moscow launched its military offensive in Ukraine.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) announced on March 1 that “no Russian or Belarusian athlete shall participate in any FIS competition at any level through the end of the 2021-2022 season,” acting on recommendations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Vyalbe, who is head of the Russian Cross-Country Skiing Federation, has said those guilty of “Russophobia” in the current climate would come to regret it.
“The question of the attitude of foreign athletes to Russian ones is quite individual. All athletes, by and large, are dependent people,” the 53-year-old was quoted as saying on TV channel Rossiya 24.
“If their leaders tell them that they need to speak so that the Russians will not appear any further at the World Cup, then sooner or later they will do it.
“I understand that politics and sports have been together for a long time, but everyone should still do their own thing,” added the three-time Olympic champion.
“If an athlete trains and competes, a politician deals exclusively with politics... then there will be order everywhere in the world.
“This general Russophobia, which, unfortunately... We just need to get through this time. I am sure that we will see how these people will apologize.
“They will say: ‘Yes, guys, we didn’t know much, they didn’t tell us much, we now learned and, of course, we are ashamed of our actions.”
Skiing star Alexander Bolshunov – a three-time gold medalist at the Beijing Games – spoke this week on how he felt threatened ahead of a planned event in Norway before Russian athletes were barred.
One Norwegian sports official, Oyvind Watterdal, resigned in protest at the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, saying: “It is a decision that is in sharp conflict with my values and perception of what sports should be.”
Russian officials have consistently decried the bans as “politicized,” claiming they undermine the notion that sport should be separate from politics.
IOC chief Thomas Bach has dismissed that line of thinking, stating it is a “cheap argument” to claim that the current sanctions are unjustified.
“Whoever so blatantly violates the Olympic Truce with political and even military means cannot denounce the consequences as being politically motivated,” Bach has asserted.