MMore than 300 active and former fencers have spoken out in an open letter to their world federation FIE and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) against the re-admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes. “We urge you, in your leadership position in the IOC, to uphold the suspensions of the Russian and Belarusian fencing federations and national Olympic committees that you have recommended,” the letter said.
The background to the appeal is that the FIE decided on March 10th that Russian and Belarusian athletes should return. This Tuesday in Lausanne, the IOC executive wants to decide on “guard rails” for the return of the currently banned athletes from the two countries to world sport, also with a view to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“This outrageous, unilateral war of aggression and breach of the Olympic Truce must not be ignored or even condoned. It would be a catastrophic mistake to go back to business as usual,” the letter said.
Russia’s aggression “violates not only the norms of international law, but also the fundamental values of Olympism, including peace, international understanding, respect for human dignity and human rights.”
“Not the right time”
According to the authors, the war has so far killed “232 athletes, destroyed 343 sports facilities, forced 40,000 athletes to flee abroad and left 140,000 young athletes without good training opportunities. The international community is fully aware that in the case of Russian and Belarusian athletes, the separation between sport and the state can hardly be made.”
The foreign ministers of Poland, Great Britain and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have also asked the IOC, led by Thomas Bach, to uphold the existing exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions. “We firmly believe that now is not the right time,” they said in a joint statement. There is “not a single reason” to withdraw the exclusion as long as the aggressive war continues unabated.
The authors emphasize that the ban is not based on the nationality of the athletes, but on the fact “that they are sponsored by their governments or companies that support the Kremlin regime” or are directly linked to the Russian military.
Although the IOC has not yet made any final decisions, the ministries are urging them to reconsider plans and return to the “original position, tried and tested and supported by the international community”. The path for athletes from Russia and Belarus back into the international sports community is obvious – the end of the war and recognition of the internationally recognized borders are indispensable prerequisites.