Olympics: IOC suspends Russia over annexed Ukrainian regions

The International Olympic Committee said the Russian Olympic Committee can no longer receive any official funding. A decision is still to be taken on Russian athletes at Paris 2024

Ukraine praised the decision to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (photo: DW)
Ukraine praised the decision to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (photo: DW)


The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after it "unilaterally" decided to recognize regional sports organizations in four annexed Ukrainian territories as members.

The four regional organizations, namely in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, represent partially occupied and illegally annexed Ukrainian regions which, according to the IOC, fall "under the authority of the national Olympic Committee of Ukraine."

The step, taken by the ROC on 5 October, therefore "constitutes a breach of the Olympic Charter because it violates the territorial integrity" of the national Olympic Committee of Ukraine.

Suspending the ROC with "immediate effect," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said: "The Russian Olympic Committee is no longer entitled to operate as a National Olympic Committee, as defined in the Olympic Charter, and cannot receive any funding from the Olympic movement."

The ban removes the right of the ROC to get funding from the Switzerland-based IOC, which is worth millions of dollars in each four-year Olympic funding cycle.

But the suspension does not immediately affect any Russians who are returning to compete in international sporting events as neutral athletes.

IOC move welcomed by Ukraine, denounced by Russia

Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak welcomed the move as an "important decision," saying: "We communicated with our partners that sports cannot be beyond politics when a terrorist country commits genocide and uses athletes as propaganda."

Moscow, on the other hand, denounced the decision as "politically motivated," with an ROC statement reading: "The IOC has taken yet another counterproductive, politically motivated decision. Russian athletes, the majority of [whom] are still groundlessly banned from international performances, are not affected in any way by this step."

In contrast to Moscow's claims, however, the IOC under President Thomas Bach has actually been accused of being too sympathetic towards Russia not only regarding the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but also by failing to exclude all the country's athletes and teams from any Olympics despite proven allegations of state-backed doping.

Paris 2024: Still no decision on Russian athletes

The IOC initially banned Russia – and its ally Belarus – from international sports events after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. However, a few months ago, it recommended to sports federations to allow Russians and Belarusians to return as neutral athletes in individual events and under strict conditions.

However this recommendation doesn't concern their participation at the Summer Olympics in Paris next year or the Milano Cortina Winter Games in 2026.

IOC spokesman Adams nevertheless stressed that nothing in Thursday's announcement changed the IOC's position on Russian athletes wishing to compete under a neutral flag at next year's Paris Olympics.

The IOC said that a decision on the participation of individual neutral athletes with Russian passports at those events will be taken "at the appropriate time."

The Russian Olympic Committee could challenge the IOC decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"ROC, as a participant in the international sports movement, reserves the right to protect its own interests, as well as the interests of athletes and organizations of a sovereign country, which we represent in good faith," the body said.

Earlier this week, European football's governing body UEFA reversed a decision to allow Russian youth teams to re-enter international competitions.

Back in June, Russian and Belarussian tennis players returned to Wimbledon under neutral flags.

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Published: 13 Oct 2023, 12:34 PM