State-funded Russian and Belarusian athletes must remain excluded – Lucy Frazer

Russian and Belarusian athletes receiving state funds cannot be considered neutral and must remain excluded from international sport, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said.

Last month, the International Olympic Committee published the criteria under which world sports federations can consider readmitting athletes from those countries amid their invasion of Ukraine.

The recommendations say that only individual athletes from those countries should be allowed to compete, not teams.

None of us should buy into the idea of ​​a Ukrainian athlete being forced to share a field, a court, a field, a starting line with state-sponsored athletes from Russia and Belarus.

Secretary of Culture Lucy Frazer

Athletes and support personnel who actively support the war in Ukraine must also remain excluded, as should any athletes or support personnel hired by Russian or Belarusian military or security agencies.

The IOC has postponed a decision on whether athletes from those countries will be able to compete in the Paris Games next year, but the recommendations mean that, in at least some sports, Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to participate in Olympic qualifying events.

Frazer and France’s Olympic and Paralympic Games Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera called for clarity regarding state-funded athletes in remarks released Tuesday as part of a Council of Europe hearing on Russian involvement in international sport. .

Frazer said that athletes who received funds from the state, or from state-controlled companies such as Russian energy giant Gazprom, were “de facto representatives of those states.”

“They are only there by virtue of having been funded, trained, selected and supported by the Russian state,” he added.

“We have seen that the IOC started to address some of our concerns and that is welcome, but the IOC recommendations are not enough for us and leave too many questions unanswered.

“There is no reference anywhere in the recommendations to state funding, what I have said is a breach of neutrality.

“None of us should accept the idea that a Ukrainian athlete is forced to share a field, a court, a field, a starting line with state-sponsored athletes from Russia and Belarus.

“The IOC must clarify its position or go back to the drawing board. Solve the questions I have raised today.

“Implement an approach that ensures only truly neutral athletes can participate.”

Frazer also said it was crucial to ensure other loopholes were not exploited, such as pausing contracts with the military or security agencies long enough to allow athletes to compete.

Self-funded tennis players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to participate in Wimbledon this summer as long as they sign declarations of neutrality and do not express support for the war.

Oudea-Castera accepted that the IOC had the right to make the “sovereign” decision, but agreed with Frazer that there were “open issues” where clarity was required, even if the exclusion of teams extended to sports in where two athletes competed together.

Gaby Ahrens, President of the Athletes’ Commission of the Association of African National Olympic Committees, appeared at the hearing on behalf of the IOC.

She said: “If the Olympic Games become a platform only for athletes who come from like-minded countries or whose governments are at peace, it would not be a true reflection of the world and we would not be able to achieve our mission of uniting the world.” in a peaceful competition despite the differences that exist between countries and people.

“If governments were to take over the decisions about which athletes can participate in which competition, it would mean the end of world sport as we know it today.”

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