IOC stands by sanctions against Russia and Belarus
Jan 31 (Reuters) - A week after seeming to open the door for Russia and Belarus to compete at the 2024 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it is standing by sanctions imposed against the countries over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The IOC issued a statement on Tuesday in response to comments by Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of Russia's Olympic Committee, earlier in the day. He in turn was speaking after the IOC's own announcement last week that athletes from the two countries, banned from competing in Europe, might be allowed to earn slots for Paris 2024 through Asian qualifying systems.
"The sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian States and Governments are not negotiable. They have been unanimously confirmed by the recent Olympic Summit meeting on 9 December 2022," the IOC tweeted.
Those sanctions include not inviting any government officials from either Russia or Belarus to international sporting events and not organising sports events in both countries.
Last week, however, the IOC said the Olympic Council of Asia had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in Asia, drawing an outcry from Kyiv which has called for Russian sportspeople to be banned over Russia's invasion.
Pozdnyakov responded to that by telling reporters: "Certainly, there is some attempt by the International Olympic Committee to allow our athletes to participate in international competitions. Maybe in the future Olympic Games as well, of course, we welcome it entirely," he added, while cautioning against what he said were "additional conditions" imposed on Russian athletes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that allowing Russia to compete at the 2024 Games would be tantamount to showing that "terror is somehow acceptable." Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday that the IOC was "promoting violence, mass murders, destruction" and that a Russian presence at the Games would constitute giving the country "a platform to promote genocide".
The IOC, which has also largely handed over the issue of Russian Olympic participation to individual sports federations, issued a statement saying it "rejects in the strongest possible terms this and other defamatory statements. They cannot serve as a basis for any constructive discussion."
Ukraine hopes to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Olympics, its sports minister said on Tuesday, while officials have also talked of a possible boycott should they be allowed to compete.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, many sports bodies have suspended Russian teams or athletes in protest, with the IOC recommending events in Russia be cancelled and Russian and Belarusian athletes compete under a neutral flag.
Russia's Olympic team had already faced restrictions after it was found to have flouted anti-doping rules, and it competed under a neutral flag at last year's Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The IOC is keen to include Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals in 2024, which would mean competing under the Olympic flag, but it is still unclear if and how they could qualify.
Some national Olympic committees, including Olympic heavyweight the United States, have backed the possible return of those athletes under a neutral flag.
The IOC said last week after consulting stakeholders that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport".
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