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IOC president Thomas Bach says ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes are “protective measures”, not “punishments”

Nearly four months after placing sanctions on Russia and Belarus in the wake of the war between Russia and Ukraine, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has cleared up the air on how the ban affects the athletes of the two countries, stating that the step is a protective measure rather than a punishment.

We had to take these protective measures – albeit with a very heavy heart: IOC prez Bach clarifies ban on Russia and Belarus

Back in late February, Russia launched a full scale military operation in Ukraine, with aid from neighbours Belarus, and it eventually turned into a full scale war, with impacting all aspect of human activities, including sport. Days after the invasion, the IOC decided to impose sanctions on Russian and Belarusian athletes, followed by the governing bodies of several sports taking up similar actions- including football, with Russian men’s and women’s teams being banned from World Cup qualifiers.

In the wake of Russian football opposing the decision at the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport), IOC prez Thomas Bach opened up on the motives behind the decisions, saying that the sanctions were to protect athletes against anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian sentiments, rather than a punishment on them.

“Let me emphasize again that these are protective measures, not sanctions. Measures to protect the integrity of competitions. The safety of the Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials could not be guaranteed because of the deep anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian feelings in so many countries following the invasion,” Bach revealed to IOC members in an online meeting.

“There are governments who are putting public and political pressure on national Olympic committees and national sports federations,” the prez went on, “Today it is Russia and Belarus, but if we do not act, tomorrow it will be the government from country A not wanting athletes from country B to participate. Or government C demanding its athletes not to compete against athletes from country D and so on and so forth.”

“This would be a situation that is contrary to all the principles we are based on. If it is in the hands of politicians to decide who can take part in which competition, then the non-discriminatory foundation of our global sports system is gone. This would be the full politicisation of sport. This was and this is our dilemma. Because of this dilemma, we had to take these protective measures – albeit with a very heavy heart,” added Bach.  [H/T]

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