Other Sports Russian athlete list shrinks as sports chiefs reject
Other Sports Russian athlete list shrinks as sports chiefs reject

Other Sports: Russian athlete list shrinks as sports chiefs reject IOC terms

LONDON (Reuters) – The list of Russian athletes who will head to the Paris Olympics later this month has thinned to just over a dozen, as several sports federation heads have said their squads will not take part under what they see as humiliating restrictions.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus, Moscow’s closest ally in the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, are barred from the Paris Games unless they compete as neutrals without their flags, anthems and emblems.

As of July 10, the Olympics website shows that only 16 Russian athletes are scheduled to appear in the Paris Games, which run from July 26 to Aug. 11.

Russia takes pride in its record as a major sporting power at the Olympics. At the last summer Games in Tokyo in 2021, 335 Russian athletes competed, coming away with 71 medals including 20 golds.

Russians and Belarusian athletes have been forced to undergo an additional vetting process to ensure they do not support Russia’s war and have no connection to its military.

While 36 Russians received the green light, 20 of them subsequently declined to compete, according to the IOC.

The Olympics kick off as tensions between Russia and the West are at their most acute in decades. Moscow has denounced the vetting process and other restrictions as discriminatory, accusing the IOC of engaging in a “conspiracy” to exclude its athletes.

Several Russian sports officials including in judo, wrestling and gymnastics have said their athletes will not go to Paris because of what they see as the unfair terms.

“We do not accept the unsportsmanlike selection principle that guided the International Olympic Committee when forming the list of eligible athletes, the purpose of which is to undermine the principle of unity of our team,” Russia’s wrestling federation said in a statement on Saturday, citing the exclusion of several top athletes, including two-time Olympic champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev, who failed the vetting process.

‘UNPATRIOTIC’ CONDITIONS

Wrestler Veronika Chumikova said the decision to refuse the IOC’s invitation was her own, not the federation’s.

“The conditions that were prescribed there – without the flag, without the anthem – were somehow unpatriotic,” Chumikova told Reuters in a WhatsApp message.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that each athlete could decide individually whether to compete.

“As for those who did not have the opportunity to go (to Paris), each federation has its own conditions, its own collective decisions, and this should be treated with respect,” Peskov told a news briefing.

Russia’s absence has left a power vacuum in sports where it traditionally dominates, such as wrestling, gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics.

Tokyo tennis doubles gold medallist Andrey Rublev and cyclist Aleksandr Vlasov, who won Switzerland’s Tour de Romandie and Spain’s Tour of Valencia in 2022, are among the 20 who declined to compete.

The Olympic website lists only one Russian wrestler as a competitor in Paris after nine other squad members refused.

But a spokesperson for Russia’s wrestling federation said the athlete, 23-year-old Shamil Mamedov, had not yet confirmed his participation.

“Shamil Mamedov has not made a final decision yet. There is no pressure on the athlete, athletes have the right to make all decisions independently,” the spokesman said.

Mamedov, who took home bronze at the 2023 World Championships, did not reply to a Reuters request for an interview.

The International Olympic Committee did not immediately reply to a request to clarify if Mamedov would go to Paris.

(Reporting by Filipp Lebedev and Lucy Papachristou; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; editing by Mark Trevelyan and Sharon Singleton)

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