Global sport ‘losing relevance’ without Russia – minister
International sport is deteriorating in the absence of strong competition from athletes from Russia, according to Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin. The official was commenting after ski and snowboard federation the FIS announced the extension of a ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors for the 2022/23 season.
“The FIS decision to extend the non-admission of Russian athletes to competitions in the 2022/23 season deprives sports fans of an entertaining fight for medals, and deprives athletes of serious competition,” read a message on Telegram from Matytsin on Sunday.
“Russian skiers are among the strongest in the world, without them any international competitions lose their relevance, become less interesting and exciting, and the results on the scoreboard are noticeably inferior to the previous ones.
“We continue to support our athletes, create new formats of tournaments to preserve the competitive experience, and, together with the federations, are working hard to protect the rights of our athletes.
“I am sure that the practice of expelling Russians will soon stop, the world sports community will remember the main principles of Olympism, and sports grounds will once again become the site of a major international sports festival,” added the minister.
The FIS confirmed on Saturday that it was prolonging its ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from all its competitions, following a meeting of its council in Soelden, Austria.
“The FIS Council decided, with due regard to the integrity of FIS competitions and for the safety of all participants, and in line with IOC recommendations, to continue its policy to not allow Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes, to participate in all FIS competitions,” the organization said.
The FIS first acted to ban Russians and Belarusians back in March, also cancelling any events planned for the two countries.
The ski and snowboard governing body is just one of a host of sports federations to follow a recommendation first issued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) back in February because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Responding to the news of the FIS ban extension, Russian Olympic champion cross-country skier Veronika Stepanova vowed “we shall be back.” The 21-year-old also shared messages of support from international fans who disagreed with the FIS decision.
The head of the Cross-Country Ski Federation of Russia, Elena Vyalbe, suggested that a speech last week by IOC president Thomas Bach – in which he said it was “not the time” to remove bans on Russian athletes – had played a part in the decision.
“A month ago, I was at a meeting of the FIS technical committees, talking with representatives of other countries – not everyone was in favor of extending our suspension,” Vyalbe told Russian outlet Championat.
“But after the fiery speech of Thomas Bach in Seoul, it became clear that there was no hope, no one would go against a higher organization. I don’t want to say anything more on this topic.”
Russian sports officials have frequently decried the bans imposed on athletes from their country as being discriminatory and contrary to the principle of sport being outside politics.