On March 28th, 2023 the International Olympic Committee announced their recommendations on the reintegration of Russian and Belarusian athletes to the international competitions. The ROC Athletes’ Commission has thoroughly engaged with the Russian athletes community in order to review and discuss the IOC statements and to elaborate a common position on the matter. We consider it necessary to communicate our position.
We believe the proposed reintegration and admission criteria are excessive and discriminatory – by nationality and by passport, by discipline and sport, and by affiliation to certain entities developing sports for decades in most post-soviet states. Similar system of athletes support is a common thing in many other countries, but in this particular case it is only used as a ground to exclude athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports.
Depriving athletes of their national identity, of an opportunity to compete in team and group events, as well as sanctioning them just because of a contract with a sports club providing legal labor guarantees – all of this constitutes a gross violation of the principle of equality, which is fundamental not only to the concept of Olympism, but also in humanitarian, universal sense, in the International Law.
The ROC AC fully upholds the position voiced by ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov that the proposed “neutral status” for a competitor is an obvious discrimination on the basis of nationality and blatant application of double standards in sports.
Most of our athletes have the same question:
“We respect the principles of the Olympic Charter providing equal rights for all participants of the Olympic movement. So, on what grounds are such decisions taken: suspending athletes of Russia and Belarus from competitions for more than a year? And in order to be able to return to international competitions they are forced to comply with unacceptable conditions… Is all of this being done on purpose?”.
In our opinion, a dangerous precedent has been set when no athlete in the world can be sure (1) that his or her human and civil rights will be duly respected from now on, (2) that decisions are taken based on the Law and the Olympic Charter – without exemptions.
The IOC leadership often repeatsthat athletes are the heart of Olympism. But today we, athletes, are detained as hostages of political games that divide the international sports community and at the same time sow discord within the Olympic family – dictating the parameters of admission, defining who is eligible to perform and who is not.
Russian athletes always observed the Olympic Charter, values of Olympism and the unity of the Olympic family. Today we are forced to accept living and working by set of brand new rules, to undergo a humiliating segregation based on discriminatory conditions. And that is actively promoted by states and governments who openly blackmail the IOC with their radical statements and actions.
Direct violations of the Olympic Charter include the prohibition by the Ukrainian government for Ukrainian athletes to participate in competitions where Russians and Belarusians are admitted, and the veto by the Polish authorities on the participation of our athletes in the European Games, as well as a series of other absolutely politicized anti-Russian and at times openly Russophobic actions. Such open interference in sports affairs is deemed to result in the most immediate and severe response, but in the current situation all of the above remain merely unattended. That is also a double standard that predetermines further escalation of permissiveness, tension, and mutual claims.
Today we, the members of the ROC Athletes’ Commission, would like to address once again the IOC leadership and the entire Olympic community. Earlier this month we all celebrated the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. The holiday is intended to remind us of common values and the historic mission of sport to make people’s lives better and to serve as an example of unity, where there is no place for inequality, discrimination, political disagreements and violation of participants’ rights.
We advocate for this kind of world of sport, for the integral Olympic movement based on mutual respect. At the same time we demand an objective assessment of the obviously anti-Russian actions promoted by certain stakeholders; we demand that such discriminatory practices are abandoned under the IOC leadership.
We are convinced that reintegration of Russian and Belarusian athletes to the international competitions should be implemented only on the basis of equality with all other participants of the Olympic movement, without additional conditions, prescriptions, restrictions and criteria that destroy the Olympic movement and depreciate the letter and spirit of the Olympic Charter.