Latvia will consider boycotting next year’s Paris Olympics if athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus are allowed to take part after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While various governments in Europe, including Latvia, have condemned the International Olympic Committee’s push to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete, and Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Games, the response from the national Olympic committees sending teams has been muted.
“If the Olympic Games took place now and Russian and Belarusian athletes were allowed to participate in Olympic Games, the Latvian team would not go to (this) competition,” Latvian Olympic Committee president Žoržs Tikmers told Latvian public television on Monday, according to a statement provided by the LOC to the Associated Press on Tuesday.
There was no immediate response from the IOC.
Tikmers was himself a silver medalist in rowing for the Soviet Union at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which numerous countries including the United States boycotted in protest after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan.
Latvia, which borders Russia and regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has been a strong supporter of Ukraine. Latvia is the defending Olympic champion in men’s 3-on-3 basketball after beating the Russian team in the gold-medal game in Tokyo in 2021.
Ukraine is steadfastly opposed to letting Russians compete. Any neutral flag for Russia would be “stained with blood,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week. The Ukrainian National Olympic Committee has threatened to boycott and is due to hold talks Friday on the issue. Ukraine boycotted some sports competitions, including Olympic judo qualifiers, last year when Russians competed.
Other national Olympic sports bodies, including the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, back the IOC’s efforts to find a path for Russians to compete. The IOC is pushing sports federations to allow any Russians or Belarusians who have not been “actively supporting the war in Ukraine” and argues it would be discriminatory to ban athletes based on their citizenship alone.