Russian Olympic ban would be ‘criminal’ – minister
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has warned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that any potential removal of Russian athletes from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would be “criminal.”
Russia performed at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Games as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) due to sanctions stemming from a long-running doping row.
Four days after the Winter Olympics had concluded, however, Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine which prompted the IOC to recommend that sporting federations the world over ban its teams, clubs and athletes from all international sporting events.
Some sports such as tennis have allowed Russians to compete under neutral status, although many federations have issued blanket bans.
In athletics, Russia has not been allowed to send competitors to the ongoing World Championships in Eugene, Oregon with World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe saying their presence was "inconceivable".
Influential IOC figure Craig Reedie warned last week that Russia faces being frozen out of Paris 2024 as its athletes might not be able to compete in qualifying events.
Russian Sports Minister Matytsin has reacted to the possibility of a potential ban from the Paris Games with strong criticism.
"We have said more than once, and this is confirmed by representatives of other countries and federations, that without Russia the development of world sports is impossible," Matytsin remarked to Match TV.
"And to deprive [Russia of] the right to participate in the Olympic Games, I think it would be a crime and lead to even greater discord within the Olympic movement."
"We are ready for development in any format, for any perspective," Matytsin revealed while stressing that he doesn't "see the need to create some alternative Games."
"We have enough formats and opportunities – BRICS, SCO, CIS, so that our athletes do not lose the competitive environment. Time will tell, I hope that reason will prevail in the international federations and the IOC," he went on.
Matytsin added that there is no information on how many Russian athletes might decide to change citizenship in order to compete at international events.
"We have not been officially contacted. None of the leading athletes expressed a desire and did not take an active position in order to change sports citizenship," Matytsin said.