Criticism by some European governments of a plan to see a full return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sport is deplorable and cuts into the autonomy of sport, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said on Thursday.
The IOC on Wednesday issued a set of recommendations for international sports federations that will allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return since their ban last year following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
This does not include the 2024 Olympics in Paris. A separate decision on that will be taken at a later date.
But governments in Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic among others have been angered by the IOC’s plan for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return, saying they have no place in world sport with the war still ongoing.
“It is deplorable to see that some governments do not want to respect the majority within the Olympic movement and all stakeholders, nor the autonomy of sport,” Bach told a news conference at the end of an executive board meeting.
“It is deplorable that these governments do not address the question of double standards. We have not seen a single comment on their attitude on the participation of athletes from countries of the other 70 wars and armed conflict around the world.”
Athletes from Russia and Belarus, Moscow’s ally, were banned from most international competitions last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’.
The Lausanne-based IOC’s latest guidelines to allow for their return to world sport cite human rights concerns for Russian athletes and the current participation of Russians and Belarusians in some sports as reasons for the decision.
“Government interventions have strengthened the unity of the Olympic movement,” Bach said. “It cannot be up to the governments to decide which athletes can participate in which competition. This would be the end of world sport as we know it today,” he added.
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