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Friday, December 9, 2022

Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been subjected to a global sports crackdown

When executives from across the globe pushed to exclude Russians from events and further isolate the nation for its invasion of Ukraine, an article of faith in global sports — that athletes should not be penalised for the conduct of their governments — shattered on Monday.

The International Olympic Committee has suggested that athletes from Russia and Belarus, which has enabled Russian soldiers to use its territory, be excluded from participating in sporting events in the future. In effect, FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has prevented Russia from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup for men. As a result, the International Ice Hockey Federation announced that Russian and Belarusian teams would be prohibited from participating in its events, including this year’s world championships, and the National Hockey League ceased its economic operations in the country.

The penalties served as a stinging rebuke to Moscow and Minsk from the sporting world, which has long tried, if unsuccessfully, to portray competition as a distinct entity from politics.

An international decision on whether or not to let Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paralympic Games in Beijing, which are set to begin on Friday, is anticipated on Wednesday by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

However, the events of the day left little question that Russia and Belarus, who had previously come under fire for doping violations and authoritarianism, would be further isolated from the rest of the athletic world as a result of the day’s events.

Russian and Belarusian athletes should be barred from competing in international sports competitions, according to a recommendation made by the International Olympic Committee on Monday. The I.O.C. cited “the integrity of global sports competitions” and “the safety of all participants” as justifications for its decision.

Events organisers and the federations that administer individual sports will be responsible for determining whether or not to abide by the I.O.C.’s recommendation, which the committee suggested might not be implemented “on short notice for organisational or legal reasons,” according to the committee.

There looked to be a mention to the approaching Paralympic Games, which are likely to bring more than 70 participants from Russia and roughly a dozen from Belarus, according to reports.

The International Paralympic Committee, as well as officials from Belarus and the Russian Paralympic Committee, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Russia’s Olympic Committee president, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, said in a statement on Monday that the I.O.C. suggestion was “seriously” opposed by him and other Russian authorities because it “contravenes the spirit of the Olympic movement, which should unify rather than divide.”

Russian Federation and its teams were suspended from all competitions and barred from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup only hours before FIFA announced that Russia and its teams had been barred from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, just weeks before they were to play for one of Europe’s final two spots in this year’s tournament.

In a statement issued jointly by FIFA and its European equivalent, UEFA, the organisations said the ban on Russia will remain in effect “until further notice.” FIFA has come under fire for its initial hesitance to remove Russia from play.

As part of its efforts to cut its links with Russia, UEFA said that it has terminated a sponsorship relationship with the Russian energy company Gazprom. The decision to relocate this year’s Champions League final from St. Petersburg, Russia, was the first step in the process. According to reports, the arrangement was worth $50 million each year to European soccer.

Though significantly more widespread, Monday’s outpouring of censure came after days of mounting fury among sports executives and demands from political leaders and sportsmen alike. Last week, Olympic administrators pressured federations to postpone or relocate games in Belarus and Russia, which they said were a priority.

Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia, who has long lauded the importance of sports in his own life as well as the importance of athletics in his country’s aspirations, has been under growing personal pressure in recent months. Recently, he was removed from his position as honorary president of the International Judo Federation, and World Taekwondo revoked the honorary black belt it awarded him in 2013.

Putin was stripped of the International Olympic Committee’s highest accolade, which he had won in 2001. On February 4, he attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, despite the fact that his men were massing near the Ukrainian border in preparation for an invasion.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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