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9 Jun, 2022 14:09

Russian Olympic queen issues withering takedown of IOC chief

Mariya Lasitskene accused Olympic boss Thomas Bach of lacking the ‘courage and dignity’ to lift the ban on Russian athletes
Russian Olympic queen issues withering takedown of IOC chief

Olympic high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene has launched a scathing attack on IOC president Thomas Bach, accusing him of hypocrisy and ignoring the interests of banned Russian athletes.

Lasitskene is among the many Russians sidelined due to sporting sanctions imposed in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, with numerous federations acting on a recommendation from the IOC at the of February.

IOC boss Bach has since attempted to justify the organization’s stance, claiming that sanctions have targeted the Russian leadership – which he has accused of breaching the Olympic Truce – while arguing that athletes themselves have partly been barred for their own safety.

But in a withering open letter addressed to Bach and shared on social media, Russian three-time world champion Lasitskene has questioned that position – noting that the current situation as well as the previous doping scandal involving Russia have restricted her participation significantly through no fault of her own.

“My name is Maria Lasitskene. I’m the Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion in high jump. I’m not sure you know me, when I read your recent statements and decisions I have strong suspicions that you are already much closer to politics and further away from athletes and elite sports in general,” began Lasitskene, who shared a number of Bach’s quotes from recent speeches to highlight their supposed hypocrisy.

“But I remember very well how you turned a blind eye to the fact that the current IOC member Sebastian Coe did not allow me to participate in the 2016 Olympics simply because I was born in Russia.

“Over the last seven years I have not been able to compete in international competitions for about four years in total.

“There have never been any complaints against me personally, except one… the World Athletics use my Russian passport as the trump card at every opportunity. And you saw no issues with this. Now they are doing this again, but directly at your instigation,” added the 29-year-old.

Lasitskene said she found it hard to look her Ukrainian rivals “in the eyes,” adding that “they and their friends and relatives are experiencing what no one human being should ever have to feel.”

“I am sure that nothing of this should ever have happened. And any arguments can’t convince me to change this opinion,” wrote the star.

“But you don’t know all that; you prefer to know nothing about Russian athletes’ opinions and how our athletes live in light of recent events in Ukraine.

“If you really cared about the fate of athletes, you wouldn’t demand that they speak openly about these events, but rather try to unite the world via sports. But you chose the easiest solution to you – to suspend everyone because of citizenship.”

Bach’s most recent defense of the IOC came at an ASOIF congress in Switzerland this week, when he criticized Wimbledon for its ban on Russian and Belarusian players while warning against government interference in sport.

At the same time, however, Bach claimed the IOC had recommended that athletes from the two countries not be invited to international competitions because their safety could not be guaranteed.   

“You say that you requested to suspend Russian athletes because of concerns about our safety, but that’s not true,” wrote Lasitskene.

“Russian tennis players who compete around the world proves this once again. Fans fall in love with athletes not because of their nationality or citizenship, but because of what those show at competitions.

“Although, in my opinion, it is high time for the Olympic movement and sports in general to stop using national flags and anthems at all tournaments.

“Any decision taken should bring results, but what you did was not to stop the war, but on the contrary, it gave birth to a new one, around and inside the sports, which is impossible to contain.”

Saving her most brutal assessment of Bach for last, Lasitskene accused the German of lacking the fortitude to lift the sweeping bans on Russians.  

“I have no doubts that you don’t have the courage and dignity to lift the sanctions against Russian athletes,” wrote the triple world champion.

“Because in this scenario you would have to admit that all these months the IOC Charter was violated by you, and the statutes of international sports federations was turned from strict documents into worthless papers.

“But I ask you to stop shifting the responsibility for the current situation in sports world from yourself to the ‘care for Russian athletes’ declared by you. This is not appropriate for the President of the IOC to do such things.”

As well as her attack on the IOC and Bach, Lasitskene has previously been critical of bosses at the Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF), accusing them of not doing enough to further the cause of athletes who have been affected by suspensions.