International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) “with immediate effect until further notice.” This decision comes in response to the ROC’s recognition of regional organizations from four Ukrainian territories that have been illegally annexed by Russia since the full-scale invasion began in 2022.
The IOC’s decision to suspend the ROC is rooted in the violation of the Olympic Charter. Specifically the infringement of the territorial integrity of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine. This suspension means that the ROC is no longer entitled to function as a National Olympic Committee. It is ineligible to receive funding from the Olympic movement.
The ROC had recognized Olympic Councils from the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, which were previously part of Ukraine. The IOC has stated that it will decide whether Russian athletes can compete as neutrals at the Paris 2024 Olympics “at the appropriate time.”
In response to the suspension, the ROC has labeled it as “another counterproductive decision with obvious political motivations.” This move by the IOC comes after years of debate and scrutiny over the participation of Russian athletes. Due to state-sponsored doping and, more recently, the conflict in Ukraine.
It is important to note that the IOC did not initially sanction the ROC following the invasion in Ukraine. But Russia has faced bans in specific sports, such as athletics, since November 2015 due to state-sponsored doping. Although the doping suspension was lifted in March, the World Athletics Council extended the ban, citing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Consistent pressure to ban Russian
The IOC has faced consistent pressure to suspend Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in Olympic. Even under a neutral flag, since the invasion began. Ukraine has gone so far as to threaten a boycott of the Paris 2024 Games if a full ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes is not upheld. Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, emphasized that “sports cannot be out of politics”. Also accused Russia of using athletes for propaganda purposes.
Under the current IOC sanctions, no international sporting events can be organized in Russia or its ally Belarus, and the flags, national anthems, or any other national symbols of both countries must not be used.
European football’s governing body, UEFA, recently abandoned plans to reinstate Russian Under-17 teams into next year’s youth European Championships. Following backlash from various national football associations. All England Club allowed Russian and Belarusian tennis players to compete at Wimbledon in March. They will be lifting a ban imposed a year earlier.
The suspension of the ROC by the IOC is a significant step. It is in the ongoing debate surrounding Russian athletes’ participation in international sporting events. Further highlighting the complex interplay between sports and geopolitics.