FINA bans Russian, Belarusian athletes from 2022 world championships

Russia's Rylov celebrates with bronze medal after men's 200m backstroke final at Aquatics World Championships in Kazan
Russia's Evgeny Rylov celebrates with his bronze medal after the men's 200m backstroke final at the Aquatics World Championships in Kazan, Russia August 7, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

March 23 (Reuters) - FINA has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from this year's world championships in Budapest following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, swimming's global governing body said on Wednesday.

FINA had last month called off the World Junior Swimming Championships that were set to take place in the southwestern Russian city of Kazan.

"The FINA Bureau met today and confirmed that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus will not take part in the upcoming 19th FINA World Championships Budapest 2022," it said in a statement.

"Following these decisions, FINA was informed by the Russian Swimming Federation of the withdrawal of all Russian aquatics athletes from all FINA events for the rest of this year.

"The FINA Bureau also decided to remove the hosting of the FINA Swimming World Championships 2022 from Kazan. The scheduled dates of 17-22 December 2022 will be maintained, and FINA is currently in discussions with potential hosts to take over the event."

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation". Belarus has been a key staging area for Russian troops.

FINA added that its disciplinary panel has opened a procedure against Russian double Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov for a potential violation of its rules.

Rylov, who won gold in the 100 and 200 metres backstroke events at last year's Tokyo Olympics, lost his sponsorship deal with swimwear maker Speedo after attending a rally hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.

Earlier on Wednesday, Rylov pulled out of this year's world championships in support of athletes banned from competing under the Russian flag.

FINA had previously said that Russian and Belarusian athletes can only compete as neutral athletes or neutral teams.

"In support of Russian Paralympians, in support of all Russian athletes who have been removed from international competitions, I refuse to go to the world championship this summer," Rylov wrote on Instagram.

"I believe that by losing competition, the development of sport is lost. As sad as it may sound, sport cannot move without decent competitors."

This year's world swimming championships, originally scheduled to be held in Fukuoka, Japan, will run from June 18-July 3 in Budapest.

Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Macfie and Ed Osmond

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