Ukraine says its athletes will not qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics if they have to compete against the Russians.
The International Olympic Committee has criticized Ukraine’s decision not to allow Ukrainian athletes to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics if they have to compete against the Russians, saying it will only harm Ukrainian sports and its athletes.
Ukrainian Cabinet Minister Oleh Nemchinov announced the policy on Friday after the IOC issued recommendations on Tuesday for a gradual return to international competition for Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals.
Athletes from the two countries have been banned from most elite international sporting events since March 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month.
“If implemented, such a decision would only harm the community of Ukrainian athletes and in no way affect the war that the world wants to stop and which the IOC has so strongly condemned,” the Olympic body said in a statement on Saturday.
“The IOC has always argued that it is not up to governments to decide which athletes can participate in which international competitions.”
Nemchinov, secretary of Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers, said the government’s decision was made following a proposal by Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait and that national associations ignoring the decision could be sanctioned. Huttsait is also the president of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee.
The IOC will subsequently make a separate decision on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Paris Games. Ukraine has threatened to boycott the games if the Russians are allowed to compete there.
“Due to the fact that unfortunately there are too many wars, armed conflicts and crises in this world, we have seen in almost all editions of the Games athletes competing with each other despite the fact that their nations are at war or in conflict,” the IOC said. .
The IOC is hesitant to exclude Russians and Belarusians from Paris amid concerns about a return to the Cold War-era boycott of the Olympics.
In January, the body laid out a path for Olympic berths through Asian qualifiers for the 2024 Games to compete as neutral athletes, without flags or anthems.
Some federations have re-included Russians and Belarusians in competitions, but there is also significant opposition to the IOC’s plans from athletes and some European governments.
Earlier this week, a scathing letter from more than 300 former and current fencers accused IOC president Thomas Bach – himself an Olympic gold medal fencer – and fencing federation interim president Emmanuel Katsiadakis of favoring Russians over Ukrainians.
“You have chosen Russian and Belarusian interests over the rights of athletes, especially Ukrainian athletes, and thus you are not supporting the very people that your organizations should support,” the letter reads.