Russia questions making athletes condemn war

Russia accused the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Saturday of violating Olympic principles by suggesting that its athletes might be allowed to return to competition, provided they did not support the invasion of Ukraine.

Responding to the idea from IOC President Thomas Bach, the head of the Russian Wrestling Federation, Mikhail Mamiashvili, said that Olympic participation should not require athletes to become traitors. He told the RIA news agency that the Olympics “do not have a principled position that one must be a traitor to the Motherland.” He added: “What do these words of Bach mean – that we must now condemn our people, our president, our country? What is the meaning of his words? What kind of choice is this?”

Russian news agencies quoted Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin as saying: “The main task of the international Olympic movement is to provide athletes with equal access to participation in the Olympic Games, regardless of their views and religions, traditions and citizenship.”

Matytsin said Russia would keep talking to the IOC and hoped it would change its stance.

“Bach’s latest statement goes against Olympic principles,” he said.

In February, the IOC issued guidance to sports governing bodies to remove athletes from Russia and Belarus which let Moscow use its territory as a launchpad for the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, from competitions.

Russia, which traditionally prides itself as an Olympic powerhouse, has been barred from competing under its flag or playing its national anthem at successive Games as punishment for widespread doping violations.

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