The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has advised that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus should be banned from all international sporting events.

It has also withdrawn the Olympic Order from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The move follows an IOC Executive Board meeting where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was discussed.

In instances where Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot be removed from competition, they should compete as neutrals, the IOC has recommended.

This means that no athlete or team would be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus, with a recommendation for no national symbols, colours, flags or anthems to be displayed.

However, the IOC has said that if this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons it will leave the decision to the relevant event organiser to find its own way to address the issue.

The Executive Board considered that this would be relevant to the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games.

This would likely leave room for Russian and Belarus athletes to still compete in the event despite the IOC recommendation they should be barred.

An International Paralympic Committee Board meeting on Wednesday (March 2) is set to decide the policy.

Russian athletes already have to compete as “neutrals” under the Russian Paralympic Committee banner because of sanctions imposed on the country in response to the cover-up of a state-sponsored doping programme.

The IOC said that normally it would not punish athletes for the decisions of a Government if they are not actively participating in them, but the war in Ukraine is an exceptional circumstance and the body has made the decision in order to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all participants.” 

Vladimir Putin, right, has been stripped of the Olympic Order ©Getty Images
Vladimir Putin, right, has been stripped of the Olympic Order ©Getty Images

It has also condemned Russia and Belarus for breaking the Olympic Truce.

More than 210 Ukrainian citizens have been killed, according to Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova, since the military offensive was launched last Thursday (February 24).

In excess of 350,000 people have fled the country, while Russia and Belarus have suffered military losses in the thousands.

The IOC has also maintained its plea for International Federations to move or cancel any events scheduled to take place in Russia or Belarus.

Several events have already been stripped from Russia, including the UEFA Champions League final, the SportAccord World Sport and Business Summit and various International Ski Federation World Cups.

Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic are all refusing to play Russia in FIFA World Cup qualifying, despite football’s world governing body moving matches away from Russia and insisting the national team play under the “Russian Football Union” banner.

Polish Football Association President Cezary Kulesza slammed FIFA’s measures as “unacceptable” yesterday, and the latest IOC guidance could pave the way for FIFA to suspend Russia outright.

The IOC has withdrawn Olympic Order awards from Putin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and Kremlin deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak.

The Olympic Order is the highest award of the Olympic Movement.

Gold Olympic Orders were bestowed upon Chernyshenko and Kozak in 2014, the same year Russia hosted the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Putin was given the distinction in 2001.

Despite the IOC advising that all Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials be banned from international events, there is still a possibility that they will compete at the Beijing 2022 Paralympics ©Getty Images
Despite the IOC advising that all Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials be banned from international events, there is still a possibility that they will compete at the Beijing 2022 Paralympics ©Getty Images

Sochi 2014 has come to be overshadowed by a state-sponsored doping scheme operated by the host nation, and which resulted in Russia’s name and flag already be banned from Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), criticised the IOC’s recommendations, and said “we strongly object to them”.

“Today’s decision of our colleagues from the International Olympic Committee, in our opinion, contradicts both the regulatory documents of the IOC and the [Olympic] Charter, first of all, and the spirit of the Olympic movement, which should unite and not divide, especially when it comes to athletes and equality of participants of the Olympic movement,” Pozdnyakov claimed.

He added that the ROC planned to discuss the implications of the IOC’s recommendations with International Federations, and would “provide all necessary assistance to our National Sports Federations to challenge discriminatory decisions of the respective IFs”.

While Belarus was able compete under its flag at Beijing 2022 and Tokyo 2020, several National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) officials – including President Viktor Lukashenko – were banned from the Games over allegations of discriminating against athletes who took part in anti-Government protests.

Viktor’s father Alexander, the Belarusian President and the former NOCRB leader, was also banned.

Campaigners allege athletes have been tortured, detained without cause and not selected for national teams for expressing support for anti-Government protests, while team officials attempted to kidnap sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya at Tokyo 2020 and return her to Belarus.

Tsimanouskaya refused to board a flight and was later granted asylum by Poland.

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