KUALA LUMPUR: Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete as “individual neutral athletes” at events sanctioned by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) from next February, the sport’s governing body said today.
The BWF council voted to approve a regulatory framework to allow athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports to compete as neutrals, beginning Feb 26, 2024.
The BWF first banned Russian and Belarusian athletes in March last year after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Belarus is being used as a key staging ground for Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”.
In April the BWF said there was no “satisfactory justification” to lift the suspension on players and officials from the two countries.
They have now aligned themselves with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendations to allow athletes from both countries to return to competition as neutrals.
“BWF have worked closely and constructively with the IOC on this matter to ensure a credible, reliable and holistic decision-making process,” BWF secretary-general Thomas Lund said in a press release.
“We feel the decision to lift the suspension on Russian and Belarusian athletes who meet the criteria to participate as individual neutral athletes is a positive step forward as part of our endeavour to promote peace and solidarity,” BWF president Poul-Erik Hoyer added.