Russia condemns ‘yet another attack’ from US
Russian officials have accused their American counterparts of waging a campaign to “persecute” Russian athletes after the US State Department issued a message alongside its allies which demanded more stringent action against Russia in world sport.
The US State Department released a statement on Tuesday which repeated previous calls for Russian athletes to be sidelined from international sporting events because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The message also demanded that “Russian and Belarusian sport national governing bodies should be suspended from international sport federations,” while asserting that “individuals closely aligned to the Russian and Belarusian states, including but not limited to government officials, should be removed from positions of influence on international sport federations.”
In cases where Russian and Belarusian athletes were permitted to compete, the US State Department argued that they should only do so if it is “clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states.”
Not content with sideling Russian and Belarusian sports stars, the message added that “national and international sports organizations should consider suspending the broadcasting of sports competitions into Russia and Belarus.”
The statement, which was signed by 35 nations in total, drew a strong rebuke from officials at the Russian Embassy in Washington.
“We have noted yet another Russophobic attack from the United States and its satellites, which do not leave attempts to limit Russian participation in sporting events,” said the Embassy in a message posted on Facebook.
“We consider this step as politicized and aimed, as they say here, at ‘containing’ our country. At the same time, it is obvious that Ukraine is just an excuse. The persecution of Russian athletes began long before the current events. This is part of a ridiculous campaign to ‘cancel’ Russia,” it added.
“The actions of the ‘collective West’ are another example of unfair competition in order to deprive Russian athletes of the opportunity to compete on equal terms with rivals from other countries.
“We emphasize that sport should remain out of politics. Using it as an instrument to exert political pressure and settle scores directly violates the basic principles of the Olympic movement and is contrary to the spirit of competitiveness as well as healthy competition.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended on February 28 that Russian and Belarusian athletes not be invited to international events wherever possible because of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
That call since been heeded by federations across a wide range of sports, including the likes of football governing bodies FIFA and UEFA.
Russian officials have criticized the bans as discriminatory and undermining the principle that sport should remain free from political influence.