IOC denies dragging its heels over decision on Russians and Belarusians for Paris 2024 Olympics

By Sports Desk March 28, 2023

Thomas Bach denied the International Olympic Committee is biding its time over deciding whether Russia and Belarus athletes can compete at Paris 2024 amounted to "kicking it down the road".

IOC president Bach spoke on Tuesday at a press conference after interim recommendations were issued to international federations and organisers of events regarding the involvement of Russians and Belarusians in events while war in Ukraine continues.

The Olympic body urged federations to exclude any athletes or support personnel "who actively support the war", along with anybody "contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies", and said teams from either country should not be allowed to compete in international sport for now.

However, in a statement, the IOC said: "Sports organisations must have the sole responsibility to decide which athletes can take part in international competitions based on their sporting merits and not on political grounds or because of their passports."

There is a clear possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes being allowed to compete as neutrals at the Paris Olympics next year, although Bach stressed there has been no decision taken on that matter, explaining it has yet to be discussed by the IOC executive board.

Bach said the IOC was going along with a United Nations position, and when asked whether Olympic chiefs were simply waiting for the war to end, and holding fire on direct action until then, he refuted the contention.

"We are not kicking it down the road, and we are not waiting," Bach said. "I guess we all would like the war to end now, and this is what we are calling for, but as you can see for all the reasons we are giving the conditions are not related to the development of the war, they are related to the respect of the Olympic charter and the Olympic values, and there we have to address these questions whether somebody is actively supporting the war in whichever way."

Bach said a decision regarding next year's Olympics would be made "at the appropriate time", without indicating when that might be, saying it was important to monitor the latest recommendations "for as long as possible" before taking "an informed decision".

He said there was no timeline because "nobody knows what's happening tomorrow or in one week or in nine months, so we have just to monitor and then find the appropriate time".

Bach knows there is unease in some quarters about the IOC not taking a firm decision.

When asked about Russia being happy its athletes were being able to compete, and Ukraine being unhappy with the situation, Bach said: "We have been accused by the Russian side of being agents of the United States, and we have been accused by Ukrainian side of being promoters of the war, so we appear to be somewhere in the middle."

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