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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Hardly Any Russians Are Set to Compete at the Paris Olympics

  • Athletes from Russia and Belarus have to compete as “Individual Neutral Athletes” in Paris.
  • The IOC banned those two countries after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Chafing under what they say is an onerous vetting process, hardly any Russian athletes will be competing at this summer’s Olympics, which are set to open in Paris in just over two weeks. 

Only 16 Russian athletes are currently scheduled to participate in the Summer Games, according to Reuters.

More Russian athletes than that won gold medals in Tokyo three years ago, when 335 athletes competed under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Since 2016, Russian athletes have been under a partial Olympic ban due to the country’s state-sponsored doping scheme. This year’s ban is about the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Athletes from Russia—and Belarus, which has allied itself with Russia in the Ukraine war—have to be cleared by an International Olympic Committee board to compete as “Individual Neutral Athletes” at this summer’s Olympics.

In March, the IOC established the board to vet every qualified Russian and Belarusian athlete. To be cleared to compete, the athletes cannot:

  • “actively support the war” in Ukraine
  • be “contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies”
  • display any national symbols of either country once in Paris

The vetting process has tripped up scores of athletes from both countries, infuriating Russian athletes and officials. In April, legendary wrestler Abdulrashid Sadulaev was banned from the Games after the review board “found new information about his support of the Ukraine-Russia war.” 

Last week, the Russian Wrestling Federation said that the 10 wrestlers who were cleared would not compete in Paris. “Any sane person understands that the status of the Olympic Games as the most significant sporting event is being questioned, and wrestling competitions without Russian athletes will be incomplete, and the champions will not receive the satisfaction of winning the Olympic tournament,” the federation said in a statement.

In all, 20 of the 36 cleared athletes, including stars in tennis and cycling, are refusing to compete, according to Reuters. Russian officials claim that “athletes have the right to make all decisions independently.”

With Russian participation heavily limited, organizers have reported that the country has been repeatedly attacking the Games. Last month, a widely circulated fake video contained a “CIA warning” about violence at the Olympics. An investigation organized by Microsoft found that the video had Russian origins.

Russia and Belarus are not the only countries under pressure for their participation in the Olympics. Palestinian athletes and advocates have called for similar restrictions to be placed on Israel in Paris over its prosecution of the war in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian athletes and sports officials have been killed in the war, local officials say. 

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