Australia joins UK, France and 32 other nations seeking to ban Russian athletes from the Paris Olympics


Melbourne: Australia on Tuesday said it had aligned with 34 other nations on the call for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from its competitions, despite not being marked as a signatory to the statement.

Earlier in the week, the British government issued a joint statement on behalf of “more than 30 like-minded nations”, which had held a summit addressed by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this month calling for a blanket ban on Russian athletes as a direct fallout of Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine.

Australia was a signatory to two statements on the matter which were agreed to by “35 like-minded nations” last year but was the only one of those countries not represented in Monday’s new pledge.

A spokesperson from the Australian Sports Ministry said on Tuesday that Australia’s absence was an administrative error and that the government was in sync with the sentiments expressed in the recent statement.

The statement followed the IOC’s recent proposal to develop a pathway for athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus to compete at next year’s Paris Olympics as neutral athletes despite the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ … when they are directly funded and supported by their states,” the statement read. The strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also of clear concern to the 35-odd nations.

The statement further added, “As long as these fundamental issues and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable ‘neutrality’ model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition.”

The International Olympic Committee said it would take into consideration the questions raised by those countries in their statement but repeated its position that human rights concerns for Russian and Belarusian athletes needed to be addressed.

“The IOC appreciates the constructive questions with regard to the definition of the neutrality of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport, while noting that the explicit human rights concerns expressed by two special rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council have not been addressed in the statement,” the international sports body said in a statement on Tuesday.

‘Unacceptable Interference’

Responding to the call to ban the athletes, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said last week that calls from other countries to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Olympics were an “unacceptable interference” in the activities of independent sports bodies.

Russian track and field athletes have been able to compete at the last two Summer Olympics as Authorised Neutral Athletes after the Russian Athletics Federation was banned by World Athletics for systematic doping in 2015.

Other international sports federations have allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete on a similar basis since last year’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine, meanwhile has threatened to boycott the Paris Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes compete. The IOC is fearful of a return to the days of the Cold War when a series of boycotts of the Olympic Games threatened the existence of the movement.

The two statements by the 35 nations last year called for a ban on all Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competition. The second also laid out conditions which such athletes should meet if sports federations allowed them to compete, including bans on flags and anthems as well as any public statements of support for the war.

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Australia joins UK, France and 32 other nations seeking to ban Russian athletes from the Paris Olympics
Australia joins UK, France and 32 other nations seeking to ban Russian athletes from the Paris Olympics
ASE News
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