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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

IOC recommends barring athletes from Russia and Belarus

Russian athletes at the Winter Olympics in Beijing this month competed under a neutral flag because of a longtime doping scandal.

By Alan Blinder

The International Olympic Committee on Monday recommended that athletes from Russia and Belarus be blocked from competitions around the world, linking the isolation of individuals and teams from each country to their governments’ roles in the invasion of Ukraine.

The IOD’s recommendation is not an outright ban: It included exceptions that could see Russian and Belarusian athletes continue to compete internationally, and left the decision on whether to bar athletes from the two countries to governing bodies and the organizers of events, a category broad enough to include everything from individual tennis tournaments to soccer’s World Cup.

And despite the recommendation, the rules and logistics of international sports left open the possibility that Belarusian and Russian athletes will compete in the Paralympic Games that will open this week in Beijing.

The statement was issued by the Olympic committee’s executive board, which cited “the integrity of global sports competitions” and “the safety of all participants” for its recommendation, which, despite several caveats, was highly unusual. The IOC’s statement represented an escalation in the isolation of Russia and Belarus, which allowed Russian forces to use its territory to mount part of the invasion.

“While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country,” the IOC said after it noted its customary reluctance to “punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them.” The IOC said it was issuing its recommendations “with a heavy heart.”

Beyond its recommendation to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes, the IOC decided Monday to rescind its highest honor from President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who had received it in 2001.

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