World Athletics joins sporting bodies in banning Russian and Belarusian athletes

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(Reuters) -World Athletics banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from all events for the foreseeable future on Tuesday, as more sporting bodies sanctioned athletes from the two countries in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the start of what Russian President Vladimir Putin has called “a special military operation” last week, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes have found themselves frozen out from international competitions across a number of sports. 

Belarus has been a key staging area for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board recommended sports federations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from competing in events. 

World Athletics said its council also agreed to consider further measures, including the suspension of the Belarus Federation, at its scheduled Council meeting next week. 

The Russian Athletics Federation has been suspended from World Athletics since 2015 due to doping violations, and hence its competitors have not been allowed to compete under the country’s flag at international events.

World Athletics said the new sanction also included Russian athletes who had the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) status in 2022.

“Anyone who knows me will understand that imposing sanctions on athletes because of the actions of their government goes against the grain,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.

“I have railed against the practice of politicians targeting athletes and sport to make political points when other sectors continue about their business.

“This is different as governments, business and other international organisations have imposed sanctions and measures against Russia across all sectors. Sport has to step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and should not sit this one out.”

The badminton federation (BWF) banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international competition from next Tuesday.

However, the BWF said it is allowing Russian players to compete at two Para badminton tournaments in Spain this week as they have already arrived on location.

“These players, however, will compete as neutral athletes, with no national flags or anthems,” the BWF added.

The global governing bodies for rowing, skiing (FIS) and volleyball (FIVB) have also banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions until further notice.

“With immediate effect, no Russian or Belarusian athlete shall participate in any FIS competition at any level through the end of the 2021-2022 season,” FIS said in a statement.

FIVB’s ban covers all teams, clubs and officials across beach and snow volleyball too. The decision came shortly after FIVB had stripped Russia of the men’s world championship.

The international shooting federation (ISSF) said Russian and Belarusian athletes stopped participation during the ISSF World Cup Rifle/Pistol in Cairo, Egypt.

German sportswear company Adidas suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Union (RFS) with immediate effect on Tuesday.

Swimming’s world governing body FINA, which on Sunday called off the World Junior Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia, said on Tuesday that Russian and Belarusian athletes could only compete as neutral athletes or neutral teams.

“No national symbols, colours, flags should be displayed or anthems should be played in international Aquatics events which are not already part of the respective World Anti-Doping Agency sanctions for Russia,” FINA said.

It added that the FINA Order awarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014 has been withdrawn.

Paralympic committees from the U.S. and Canada (CPC) said Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be allowed to compete at international sporting events, including the Beijing Paralympics which begins on Friday.

The CPC also urged the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to “consider revoking the memberships of Russia and Belarus” from the IPC.

The IPC will meet on Wednesday to discuss Russia ahead of the Beijing Games.

Photo Mariya Lasitskene of Russia looks on during the Women’s high jump competition at the IAAF Diamond League meeting at the stade Charlety in Paris, France, 28 August 2021. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

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