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12 May, 2022 14:08

Global sport can’t develop without Russia – minister

Athletes should not be held hostage to political forces, warned Oleg Matytsin
Global sport can’t develop without Russia – minister

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has warned “cunning” outside forces against attempting to isolate his country, stressing that global sport cannot hope for successful development without Russian participation.

A host of federations across a variety of sports have imposed bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes in the wake of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, taking their lead from a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Russian officials have decried the bans as discriminatory and allowing politics to undermine sport.

Matytsin cautioned on Thursday that distorting traditional Olympic principles to exclude Russia would ultimately be to the detriment of world sport.

“[Olympic] values ​​haven’t changed, their interpretation by people who announce their opinion as values ​​has changed,” Matytsin told TASS.

“They are cunning, using sports as a means of political pressure. The concepts of kindness, love, honesty, respect are not temporary, but whether they are the principles of specific organizations is a big question…

“I am sure that the understanding of the entire sports community should ultimately be that athletes cannot be made hostages of the political situation.”

The minister stressed that Russia would not seek to alienate itself despite seeing its sports stars being excluded by federations such as football governing bodies FIFA and UEFA.  

“Russia itself determines its principles, and to a large extent, our country should influence the formation of the future Olympic movement,” said Matytsin.

“We don’t see the need for isolation now. And [President Putin] said so. I think that it would be more correct to look for ways to form partnerships with other countries in order to correctly determine the directions for the further development of world sports. 

“It certainly will not develop successfully without Russia,” warned the minister.

“Theoretically, some organizations in the short term can do this. But the very image of sport, the competitive environment, sponsorship will suffer without Russia. 

“We must continue to be an active partner, strengthen interaction with countries that have the same reasonable view on the formation of a stable development of Olympic sports.”

He stressed that despite international bans ranging from karate to canoeing, Russia must not withdraw from sports federations, at least in the short term.

“If we do this, it will be very difficult to return. We may just lose influence. This doesn’t mean that we cling on to some organizations, it means that today there is no need to create an alternative.”

Matytsin has been among those critical of bans which have seen Russian athletes excluded from events such as the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing earlier this year.

The Russian Union of Athletes released a scathing attack in early March after the IOC’s ban recommendation, describing the situation as a “sports genocide” against Russia and Belarus.

The IOC has defended its calls for federations to ban Russian and Belarusian competitors, with president Thomas Bach claiming it is a “cheap argument” to say that sport is being politicized.

The organization has accused Russia of breaching the ‘Olympic Truce’ by launching its offensive against Ukraine towards the end of February.