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7 Apr, 2022 08:21

World Olympians Association opposes ban on Russians

The World Olympians Association (WOA) stressed that ‘political or governmental interference’ in sport should be resisted
World Olympians Association opposes ban on Russians

Independent global sporting body the World Olympians Association (WOA) has said athletes must have the right to compete, putting itself at odds with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its calls for a blanket ban on Russians and Belarusians.

The WOA said in a statement following a meeting of its executive committee earlier this month that “the right of Olympians and athletes as individuals to participate in sporting events must be upheld and promoted.”

“This echoes the Declaration of Support for the Olympic Charter signed by Olympians from all five continents at WOA’s World Olympians Forum in 2015, in which they pledged ‘to oppose any political or governmental interference in the autonomy of sports organizations which might prevent an athlete from exercising their right to compete in the Olympic Games or other major sporting events which also embody the Olympic spirit,’” it added.

The IOC issued a recommendation at the end of February that Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be invited to any international events wherever possible, due to the conflict in Ukraine.

That stance has since been adopted by a wide range of federations, barring Russian and Belarusian athletes from a host of tournaments, and resulting in Russia being stripped of sporting showpieces such as the UEFA Champions League final.

The WOA said it “understands and respects” the recommendation of the IOC, but asserted that it “strongly believes that decisions on whether to compete or not should be left to each individual athlete and should be based on the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter.”

The WOA added that it was setting up an appeal to help Ukrainian Olympians affected by the current conflict.

Russian sporting officials have condemned the wide-ranging bans placed on athletes, describing them as discriminatory and undermining the principle of sport being separate from politics.

In numerous cases Russian federations have appealed the bans with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with the Swiss-based organization this week confirming it was considering 10 cases.

Last month, IOC president Thomas Bach defended the organization’s call for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned en masse, stating it was a “cheap argument” to describe it as a politicization of sport.