Russian sports chiefs and politicians react to IOC president’s remarks
Russian politicians and heads of sporting organizations have reacted to remarks that International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach made on Friday, in which he said that Russian athletes could be allowed back into the international fold if they denounce their country’s military operation in Ukraine.
Russian teams, clubs, and athletes have been suspended from most sports and international competitions after a number of federations followed the recommendation from the IOC in late February to ban them.
Speaking to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera from Rome in an interview published on Friday, Bach said the IOC needs “to think about the future.”
“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” he explained.
“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back. On the other hand – and here comes our dilemma – this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”
Reacting to Bach's comments, Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said that Russian athletes have been invited “to exchange their nationality and civic position for the humiliating neutral status of performances in the international arena.
“In this situation, artificially created by the recommendations of the IOC Executive Board, our athletes are, in fact, forced to violate the laws of their country and the Olympic Charter.”
Russian teams have performed as the ‘Russian Olympic Committee’ since 2016 in Olympic events due to the fall-out from a doping row, but this does not appear to be possible at Paris 2024 given the current circumstances.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said that Russian athletes are patriots and would never sell out their homeland.
“For several years our athletes have experienced the prejudiced attitude of international sports organizations, including the IOC, [and] their removal from [international] competitions is the climax,” Chernyshenko said.
“What have our opponents achieved? They have deprived the world of sport of objectivity, healthy competition, and entertainment.”
The president of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, Irvina Viner, also does not believe that her athletes would choose to sell out, with her Russian Wrestling Federation counterpart, Mikhail Mamiashvili, comparing Bach’s proposed initiative to a confession of national betrayal on the part of athletes who would accept the conditions for competing.
“We are offered to recognize that each one of us is a Judas, to renounce our state. I doubt that the Olympic principles are based on the principles of betrayal,” Mamiashvili said.
Two-time ice dancing world champion and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Tatiana Navka accused Bach of “pure blackmail.”
“They themselves say that they are ‘outside of politics’ and ask to involve athletes in politics. This is just rudeness, I think. I myself wonder if any of the Russian athletes will take such a step,” Navka told R-Sport.