Posted: 01.02.2023 13:58:00

Precedent rule

The IOC invited the member federations to think about the admission of Belarusian and Russian athletes

Last week, the International Olympic Committee issued a statement where it admitted the possibility of Belarusian and Russian athletes participating in international competitions. And now the International Skiing and Snowboarding Federation (FIS), which unites cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, snowboarding, freestyle and alpine skiing, announced that it would discuss the issue of allowing our skiers to international competitions at the next meeting of the Council of the organisation. Now World athletics notes that it will definitely talk about Russian and Belarusian athletes in March. Even if the IOC statement contains a bunch of reservations and does not contain any substantive part, what is it, if not the notorious ‘the ice broke up, members of the jury’?!

What did the IOC say?

In mid-December, the    participants of the IOC summit proposed to allow our athletes to participate in international competitions in Asia. Most of the participants of the summit seemed curious about this proposal. On January 17th and January 19th, the IOC held special consultations with International Federations, IOC Members and National Olympic Committees, after which it declared,
“No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport. A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored.
– Athletes would participate in competitions as ‘neutral athletes’ and in no way represent their state or any other organisation in their country;
– Only athletes who fully respect the Olympic Charter would participate. This means in particular: first, only those who have not acted against the peace mission of the IOC by actively supporting the war in Ukraine could compete. Second, only athletes who fully comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and all relevant anti-doping rules and regulations would be eligible. There must be individual checks carried out for all entered athletes.
In the event of any athlete failing to respect the eligibility criteria or failing to respect the strict participation conditions as set out above, the IF and/or the sports event organiser concerned should immediately remove them from the competition, suspend them from further competitions and report the incident to the IOC.”


What is the reaction?

Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Igor Levitin called the IOC statement a success, “The details will certainly be about [IOC] recommendations and we will be waiting when International Federations receive them... We have not received recommendations as of yet and are waiting for International Federations to get them and inform us afterwards. This is when we will start our work to formulate the proposed recommendations. I believe that this is already a success. The Olympic community realises that the Olympic Games cannot transpire without Russia’s participation.”
Here is the opinion of the Head Coach of the Belarusian national biathlon team Yuri Albers, “This is not the first statement by the IOC that, subject to certain conditions, athletes may be allowed to participate in international competitions in a certain status. While these are words. I think we need to wait until there is an official statement, which will spell out specific rules.”
Indeed, much is still unclear: what tournaments are discussed in the IOC statement — only about Asian ones or about everything in general; whether the stated idea concerns only qualification for the 2024 Olympics or all international competitions; Will athletes have to apply for neutral status?

In the context of times

It is worth recalling that both the Olympic summit and the current IOC statement are largely due to the position of French President Macron, who at the end of last year unequivocally told IOC President Thomas Bach that he would be glad to see all the strongest athletes of the world in Olympic Paris. Then there was a proposal from the Olympic Council of Asia to invite Russians and Belarusians to their place, and a week ago this idea took shape in an official invitation to Russia and Belarus to take part in the Asian Games, which will be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23rd to October 8th.
Meanwhile, the IOC recalled an important precedent with the admission of some athletes from the former Yugoslavia to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. At that time, unlike today, Yugoslavia was subject to UN sanctions, which called for ‘taking the necessary measures to prevent the participation in sporting events on their territory of persons or groups that represent Yugoslavia’. But even with such sanctions, ‘independent athletes’ were allowed to the Games in Barcelona. Who ends up in Paris?

By Kirill Knyazev