More than 30 countries demand to remove Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Olympics

    Host France is among 34 countries that have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris 2024 Olympics.

    The US, UK and Australia have also called for a ban.

    The joint statement, released on Monday, contains detailed reasoning based on Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified war of choice.” [against Ukraine]with the assistance of the Belarusian government”.

    Earlier this month, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said governments’ attempts to influence the IOC were “absolutely unacceptable.”

    The IOC confirmed last month that it intends to keep sanctions against Russian and Belarusian state and government officials in place ahead of next year’s Games in the French capital, but added that it would explore opportunities for athletes from both countries to compete under a neutral flag.

    A statement from 34 nations on Monday referred to the plan, welcoming “the reaffirmation of the IOC and the strengthening of existing sanctions” and suggesting that their comments on neutrality raised “a lot of questions and concerns.”

    “While recognizing the autonomy of sports organizations given the ongoing invasion and devastation of Ukraine, we agreed that the IOC’s proposal to explore a return to competition path for individual Russian and Belarusian athletes raises many questions and concerns,” the statement said.

    The signatories also cited the lack of “clarity” around the neutrality model as a key reason why athletes from the two countries should not be present in Paris.

    “We have serious concerns about how realistic it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympians to act as ‘neutrals’ – in the absence of identification with their country by the IOC – when they are directly funded and supported by their states,” the statement said.

    “The strong ties and loyalties between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also a clear concern. So our collective approach has never been one of discrimination based on nationality alone, but these serious concerns need to be addressed by the IOC.

    “Until these fundamental questions and the significant lack of clarity and specific details in the working model of ‘neutrality’ are resolved, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to compete.”

    The statement ends with a position that will be changed if the war in Ukraine ends: “We also note that Russia and Belarus themselves can pave the way for the full return of their athletes to the international sports community. namely, by putting an end to the war they started.”

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