World Athletics boss claims sport ‘should not sit this one out’ as Russians banned

Officials from World Athletics have ruled on the participation of Russian and Belarusian competitors

Russian and Belarusian athletes and staff will be excluded from all events held by World Athletics “for the foreseeable future,” the organization has announced.

Following recommendations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday that athletes from the two nations should not be invited to events around the world across all sports, the World Athletics Council followed suit from the likes of football governing bodies UEFA and FIFA in announcing its own measures on Tuesday.   

“The World Athletics Council has today agreed to impose sanctions against the Member Federations of Russia and Belarus as a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine,” read a statement.

“All athletes, support personnel and officials from Russia and Belarus will be excluded from all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future, with immediate effect.

“Upcoming events include the World Athletics Championships Oregon 22, the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22, and the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Muscat 22, which begin on Friday in Oman (4 March).

“The Council also agreed to consider further measures, including the suspension of the Belarus Federation, at its scheduled Council meeting next week (9-10 March),” it added.

World Athletics noted that the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) was already serving a suspension to due alleged doping violations, but said that even athletes who had previously been granted neutral status were now set to be barred.

“The Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) process remains in place but Russian athletes who have received ANA status for 2022 are excluded from World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future,” it said.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe condemned the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, saying Moscow had been “aided and abetted by Belarus.”

“The unprecedented sanctions that are being imposed on Russia and Belarus by countries and industries all over the world appear to be the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace,” said Coe.

“Anyone who knows me will understand that imposing sanctions on athletes because of the actions of their government goes against the grain. I have railed against the practice of politicians targeting athletes and sport to make political points when other sectors continue about their business,” he claimed.

“This is different as governments, business and other international organizations have imposed sanctions and measures against Russia across all sectors. Sport has to step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and should not sit this one out.”

The decision is among a swathe of sanctions imposed on Russian and Belarusian athletes in blanket fashion in recent days.

Figures from Russian sport – including athletes themselves – have decried the measures as discriminatory and a breach of the principle of keeping sport and politics separate.

The Athletes’ Commission of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said on Tuesday that it would not attend a belated meeting with fellow commissions organized by the IOC, as it was already after the organization had issued its recommendation to bar them.

“It is obvious for us that all decisions were made under strong pressure from outside from forces that are far from understanding the principles of integrity of the Olympic movement and non-interference of politics in sport,” read a statement published by the ROC.

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