AP Geneva, Mar 2 : International sports bodies moved to further isolate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and pushed Moscow closer to becoming a pariah on the playing field. The International Olympic Committee urged sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events, including soccer's World Cup.
The IOC on Monday said it was needed to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.” The decision opened the way for FIFA, the governing body of soccer, to exclude Russia from the World Cup ahead of qualifying playoff on March 24. Poland already has refused to play the scheduled game against Russia.
Russian athletes have been excluded from yet another sport that is extremely popular at home following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia was banned from competing in international ice skating events on Tuesday, a day after being kicked out of soccer competitions and hockey — Vladimir Putin’s favorite sport. The International Skating Union, the body that runs the sport around the world, said no athletes from Russia or Belarus “shall be invited or allowed to participate” in events until further notice.
Also Tuesday, the International Volleyball Federation said it had stripped Russia of hosting the men’s world championships in August and September and would seek another host country or countries. “It would be impossible to prepare and stage the World Championships in Russia due to the war in Ukraine,” the FIVB board said.
The sport of swimming, however, has so far chosen to ignore the recommendation from the IOC to ban Russians. The sport’s governing body, known as FINA, said Tuesday it would allow Russian and Belarusian swimmers to take part “as neutrals, competing under the FINA flag and with the FINA anthem.”
World Rugby's executive committee banned Russia and Belarus from all international rugby and cross-border club rugby activities, saying it condemned “Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine and the facilitation of this action by Belarus.”
The IOC also went directly after President Vladimir Putin, who turned the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics into a personal project. Putin's golden Olympic Order, which was awarded in 2001, has been withdrawn, the IOC said in a statement.
The Olympic body's call also applied to athletes and official from Belarus, which has abetted Russia's invasion by allowing its territory to be used to station troops and launch military attacks. The IOC said it acted “with a heavy heart,” but noted that the impact of war on Ukrainian sports and athletes who cannot now take part in competitions outweighed the potential damage done to athletes from Russia and Belarus.
It was not a total blanket ban by the IOC, which also did not specifically suspend the national Olympic committees of Russia and Belarus. Where exclusion was “not possible on short notice for organizational or legal reasons,” then teams from Russia and Belarus should compete as neutral athletes with no national flag, anthem or symbols, including at the upcoming Winter Paralympics in Beijing.
Russian Olympic committee leader Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement “there is only one comment to make -- we categorically disagree,” adding it would help national federations to challenge “discriminatory rulings.”
Sports bodies across Europe already had moved against Russia on Monday by refusing to host or play against teams from the country.
Finland wants the Russian hockey team banned from the men’s world championships it will host in May, the Swiss soccer federation said its women’s team will not play Russia in July at the European Championship, and German soccer club Schalke said it had decided to end its longstanding partnership with Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom.
In hockey, the sport’s governing body has come under pressure from Finland and Switzerland to ban Russia and Belarus, both due to play at the world championships in May in Helsinki and Tampere.