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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Athletes Disagree With IOC President Thomas Bach’s Claim That Neutral Participation By Russia And Belarus “Works”

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Numerous international athletes have disputed Thomas Bach’s assertion that it “works” for Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals in their sport.

Russian and Belarusian athletes should be permitted to compete under a neutral flag, according to the IOC’s recommendation.

Marta Kostyuk, a tennis player from Ukraine, chastised Bach for using her victory over Varvara Gracheva, a Russian, as an example.

Russian opposition, according to compatriot Lesia Tsurenko, is a “ethical conflict.”

The IOC has only recommended it for individuals, not for teams, and it has not yet decided whether Russians and Belarusians will be allowed to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

However, a number of athletes opposed to those athletes’ readmission disputed Bach’s assertion on Tuesday that their inclusion in international competition has already been demonstrated to be effective.

One such instance, according to Bach, was Kostyuk’s refusal to shake Gracheva’s hand after the Ukrainian won her first WTA title in the ATX Open final between the two earlier this month.

Kostyuk, who previously declined to shake Belarusian Victoria Azarenka’s hand at the US Open, said, “We have a ranking system in our sport. If I don’t participate, I will lose my ranking and my career will be over.”

We have not done it publicly, but for the past year we have fought to keep Russians and Belarusians out of our sport, she continued. “A lot has been said, and I wanted to say from myself, we have been doing it,” she said.

We work for the WTA and ATP and regrettably do not have much power to affect change because we are not independent players.

Tsurenko, a fellow tennis player, admitted that she had difficulty each time she faced a Russian opponent.

Tsurenko claimed, “I kind of had panic attacks because of how it affected me.”

“Every time we play against them, there is an ethical conflict.”

In the event that the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes is not upheld, Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Games.

Following Russia’s invasion of Belarus in February 2022, the IOC urged federations to bar athletes from those countries.

The organization has stated that it will “explore a pathway” to allow athletes from those countries to compete at the Games in 2019.

One of the 36 nations that have vowed support for an ongoing ban is the United Kingdom.

“For all of us it is a mess,” said German fencer Lea Krueger.

How can a Ukrainian athlete compete with a Russian sportsperson?

Dominik Hasek, a Czech Olympic ice hockey champion, continued, “What Bach told us was incorrect.

“The war will be drawn out, but we will prevail. We must speak up for one another and support one another.

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