Sport-Russian and Belarusian athletes banned, tennis players avoid tour exclusion

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A view shows the logo at the The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) headquarters in Monaco

-World Athletics on Tuesday joined a growing list of sporting bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, while tennis’s governing bodies barred players from competing under the name or flag of either country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the start of what Russian President Vladimir Putin has called “a special military operation” last week, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes have found themselves frozen out from international competitions across sports.

Belarus has been a key staging area for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board recommended sports federations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from competing.

World Athletics responded by banning the two countries’ athletes, support staff and officials from all events for the foreseeable future.

Its council also agreed to consider further measures, including the suspension of the Belarus Federation, at its scheduled council meeting next week.

The Russian Athletics Federation has been suspended from World Athletics since 2015 due to doping violations, and its competitors have not been allowed to compete under the country’s flag at international events.

World Athletics said the new sanction also included Russian athletes who had the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) status in 2022.

“Anyone who knows me will understand that imposing sanctions on athletes because of the actions of their government goes against the grain,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.

“I have railed against the practice of politicians targeting athletes and sport to make political points when other sectors continue about their business.

“This is different as governments, business and other international organisations have imposed sanctions and measures against Russia across all sectors. Sport has to step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and should not sit this one out.”

TENNIS BODIES TAKE ACTION

The decision from the international governing bodies of tennis will allow men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev, who is Russian, and women’s number three Aryna Sabalenka, from Belarus, to continue to compete on tour.

The ATP and the WTA also decided to suspend the combined WTA-ATP event, which was set to be held in Moscow in October.

The ITF suspended the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus Tennis Federation membership and withdrew their entries from all ITF international team competitions until further notice.

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who previously refused to play against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova at the Monterrey Open, said she is likely to go ahead with Tuesday’s match.

“I’m going to wear Ukrainian colours and for me this means a lot and that’s going to be a special night for me,” Svitolina told ITV News.

MORE SPORTING SANCTIONS

Formula One’s governing body FIA said it would allow drivers from Russia and Belarus to compete under a neutral “FIA flag” after convening an extraordinary meeting of its World Motor Sport Council, adding that no Russian or Belarusian national symbols or colours would be permitted on cars.

“The FIA is watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock,” FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said. “We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The badminton federation (BWF) banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international competition from next Tuesday.

However, the BWF said it is allowing Russian players to compete at two Para badminton tournaments in Spain this week as they have already arrived on location.

“These players, however, will compete as neutral athletes, with no national flags or anthems,” the BWF added.

The global governing bodies for rowing, skiing (FIS), volleyball (FIVB), triathlon, canoe and shooting (ISSF) have also banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions until further notice.

“With immediate effect, no Russian or Belarusian athlete shall participate in any FIS competition at any level through the end of the 2021-2022 season,” FIS said in a statement.

The decision came shortly after FIVB had stripped Russia of the men’s world championship.

Cycling’s governing body (UCI) banned Russian and Belarusian teams from events and withdrew all Russian and Belarusian events from the 2022 international calendar.

However, the UCI added that Russian and Belarusian riders can continue to compete as neutrals, for teams which are not from either country.

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation suspended the membership of the Russian MMA Union and the Federation of Hand-to-Hand Fighting & MMA of Belarus.

German sportswear company Adidas suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Union (RFS) with immediate effect on Tuesday.

Swimming’s world governing body FINA said that Russian and Belarusian athletes could only compete as neutral athletes or neutral teams.

It added that the FINA Order awarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014 has been withdrawn.

Paralympic committees from the U.S. and Canada (CPC) said Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be allowed to compete at international sporting events, including the Beijing Paralympics which begins on Friday.

The CPC also urged the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to “consider revoking the memberships of Russia and Belarus” from the IPC.

The IPC will meet on Wednesday to discuss Russia ahead of the Beijing Games.

RUSSIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE CRITICISES IOC

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said it considered the IOC’s recommendations as “ethnic discrimination”.

“It is obvious for us that all decisions were made under strong pressure from outside from forces that are far from understanding the principles of integrity of the Olympic movement…,” ROC said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Now, some kind of consultations are scheduled, but only after the decisions have been made and even executed. It turns out that the opinion of athletes, our opinion, no longer matters.”

On Monday, soccer governing bodies FIFA and UEFA suspended Russia’s national teams and clubs, making it likely the country will be excluded from this year’s men’s World Cup and the women’s Euro 2022 tournament.

UEFA on Tuesday allocated 1 million euros ($1.11 million) to charity initiatives focusing on children in Ukraine affected by Russia’s invasion.

($1 = 0.8987 euros)

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar, Manasi Pathak and Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)

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