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HomeNewsUS Supports Russian Athletes in Olympic Competition as Neutrals

US Supports Russian Athletes in Olympic Competition as Neutrals

US Supports Russian Athletes in Olympic Competition as Neutrals

The White House said Thursday that it supports efforts to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutral athletes at the 2024 Olympics as long as they do not display their national flags or emblems.

“The United States has supported the suspension of the sport national governing bodies of Russia and Belarus from international sports federations,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

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If athletes are invited to an international event, such as the Olympics, “it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing Russia or Belarus,” she said.

“Use of official state Russian and Belarussian flags, emblems, and anthems should also be prohibited.”

The US position adds to the growing debate over the status of Russian and Belarussian athletes at the 2024 Paris Games.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is vehemently opposed to Russian and Belarussian athletes competing and has called for Russia to be barred from participating due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is pushing for the lifting of all restrictions, arguing that the Olympics should not be politicized.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that it is looking into a “pathway” for Russians to compete in the summer Olympics, most likely as neutral athletes.

‘Criminal hostility’

Zelensky described the IOC’s stance as a “legitimization of the criminal aggression against Ukraine” on Twitter shortly after the White House remarks on Thursday.

“We will not allow sport to be used against humanity or for propaganda purposes!” Zelensky took to Twitter.

The International Olympic Committee’s willingness to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete in Paris has divided the sporting and diplomatic worlds.

Two UN rights experts applauded the IOC’s decision to allow athletes from the two countries to compete on Wednesday, arguing that no athlete should be “discriminated against based on their nationality.”

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has also backed the IOC’s efforts to establish a path for Russian and Belarussian athletes.

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In a December conference call, USOPC chairwoman Susanne Lyons warned that if athletes were not allowed to compete as neutrals, the “fabric” of the Olympic movement would be jeopardized.

By barring Russian and Belarussian athletes from competing in Paris, they risked a return to the 1970s and 1980s Olympic boycotts.

“Every day, there are conflicts around the world, countries at war, and if people decide to boycott things, tit-for-tat, – ‘You didn’t come to our games, so we won’t come to your games,’ – very quickly the fabric of the Olympic and Paralympic movement falls apart,” Lyons said.

However, US Olympic officials are adamant that athletes will only be able to compete in “strictly neutral” uniforms.

The Olympic Council of Asia and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo have both expressed their support.

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However, the United Kingdom, Poland, and the Baltic countries have all condemned the IOC’s stance.

Latvia’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, said on Twitter after a meeting with Baltic and Polish counterparts in Riga earlier this week that allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Olympics was “immoral and wrong.”

The IOC’s plans, according to British Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan, are “a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people.”

“We will strongly condemn any action that allows President Putin to legitimize his illegal war in Ukraine – a position previously shared by the IOC,” Donelan said.

“We have been unequivocal on this throughout, and we will now work urgently across like-minded countries to ensure that solidarity on this issue continues.”