MUMBAI: The International Olympic Committee suspended Russia’s national Olympic body with “immediate effect” today for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine’s membership.
“The Russian Olympic Committee is no longer entitled to operate as a National Olympic Committee, as defined in the Olympic Charter, and cannot receive any funding from the Olympic movement,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said after the opening day of an executive board meeting in Mumbai.
However, Adams stressed that nothing in today’s announcement had changed the IOC’s position on Russian athletes wishing to compete under a neutral flag at next year’s Paris Olympics.
Adams said the suspension had followed the “unilateral decision” taken by the Russian Olympic Committee on Oct 5 to include, as its members, the regional sports organisations which are under the authority of Ukraine’s NOC, namely Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia.
That move, he added, “violates the territorial integrity of the NOC of Ukraine, as recognised by the International Olympic Committee in accordance with the Olympic Charter”.
Adams added that the IOC still reserved the right to decide about the participation of individual neutral athletes with a Russian passport at the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics and 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan “at the appropriate time”, in accordance with a policy adopted last year.
The announcement today had no bearing on the Olympic status of Belarus, which has faced sporting sanctions for its support of the invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian Olympic Committee slammed the decision.
“The IOC has taken yet another counterproductive, politically motivated decision,” it said.
“Russian athletes, the majority of which are still groundlessly banned from international performances, are not affected in any way by this step,” it added.
Ukraine welcomed the IOC’s move.
“This is an important decision, we communicated with our partners that sports cannot be beyond politics when a terrorist country commits genocide and uses athletes as propaganda,” presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on social media.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022.
The sports world has been divided in its response to the conflict.
Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been banned from track and field competitions by World Athletics “for the foreseeable future” since Moscow’s invasion. That includes the option of competing as a neutral.
But having been barred from the 2022 Wimbledon tennis championships, Russian players were allowed to compete under a neutral banner at this year’s edition.
Highlighting the complexity of the situation, European football governing body Uefa said on Tuesday that it was abandoning plans to re-admit Russian Under-17 teams into next year’s youth European Championship.