Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh has said since the start of the war that all Russian and Belarusian athletes should be excluded from international events, including the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Speaking on Wednesday a short distance from International Olympic Committee headquarters, Mahuchikh did not understand why opinions changed there after it had been pro-exclusion last year.
“Thomas Bach said at the start of the war he supported us and stayed in a strong position,” Mahuchikh, speaking about the IOC president, told The Associated Press ahead of this week’s Diamond League meet in Lausanne. “But now it’s not changed in the situation in Ukraine. Why did they change?”
The IOC gave different advice this year as qualifying events for the Paris Olympics approached, and Bach criticized Ukraine’s government last week for helping to block athletes from competing in events that now allow Russians to take part.
Olympic sports bodies have been urged since March to allow neutral Russian athletes — those evaluated as not actively supporting the war, nor contracted to military or state security agencies — to compete in international events without their flag, anthem or national colors.
Excluding them on the basis of their passports alone was discrimination, the IOC has said, while also adding that sports where Russians and Belarusians competed have not had security incidents.
That is unacceptable to Mahuchikh, the Olympic bronze medalist from the Tokyo Games behind Russian rival Mariya Lasitskene and Australian jumper Nicola Olyslagers.
“It is very difficult to compete with people who destroyed your country. Really every day the Russians do missile attacks to all territories of Ukraine,” said the 21-year-old native of Dnipro who now lives and trains in Belgium. “I don’t know what (more) we should do because we talk about and showed what they do. But, of course, we have people who support us and who understand the whole situation that happened.
“We are one year before the Olympics. We will do everything possible that the Russians and Belarusians are not allowed to go to the Paris Olympics.”
In her own sport, Mahuchikh and other Ukrainians need not worry about competing against Russians or Belarusians because World Athletics has taken the strongest exclusion stance of all Olympic sports.
“I’m very thankful to Sebastian Coe because he has a strong position about this,” Mahuchikh said of the World Athletics president and British track great, who won the first of back-to-back 1,500-meter gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
IOC officials have said the Olympic body could take a decision “at the appropriate time” to exclude all Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from next year’s Paris Games.
Mahuchikh had a theory why the balance has shifted toward letting Russians compete.
“But we know that in the (International) Olympic Committee they have in the commissions Russian athletes and a lot of Russian people. And they have, of course, chosen this,” she said, without naming pole vault great Yelena Isinbayeva, who has been an IOC member elected by athletes since 2016.
Mahuchikh said she did not expect, and did not have time, to meet this week with IOC staff dedicated to working with athletes.
The IOC did not immediately respond to a question about whether officials had sought to meet Ukrainian athletes competing in Lausanne.
Mahuchikh and Olyslagers headline the women’s high jump on Thursday, which will take place as a standalone event in a downtown shopping area. The main Athletissima meet is scheduled for Friday at the storied Pontaise Stadium.
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