The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect until further notice.
This comes after the ROC recognized regional organizations from four Ukrainian territories – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia – which Russia illegally annexed during the 2022 invasion.
Russia’s move came last Thursday and the IOC calls it a violation of the Olympic Charter because it does not respect the territorial integrity of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine. It can also be explained by the fact that IOC lawyers have now found a clear argument to ban Russians from participating in the Olympics in Paris under Russian symbols.
So far, the IOC has been hesitant to make a clear decision on the whole matter.
The suspension means, among other things, that the ROC is no longer authorized to act as a National Olympic Committee and cannot receive any funding from the Olympic Movement. In this context, it cannot be expected that the Russians would change their decision.
However, it is still not clear from the complicated situation whether the ban for Russian athletes is absolute or not. At the same time, the IOC added that it will decide at an appropriate time whether Russian athletes will be able to compete under a neutral flag in Paris 2024. What is meant by “appropriate time” is not yet clear.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the IOC has been under pressure to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing even under a neutral flag. At the same time, however, it is criticized from some quarters that it would actually be a violation of the Olympic Charter.
It was obvious that the leadership of the international organization did not want to take a clear anti-Russian position. In March, it recommended that sports federations allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to at least compete under a neutral flag.
But as BBC Sport and other sources point out, Ukraine reacted harshly to this. It has threatened to boycott the Paris Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes are not completely banned from participating.
“It’s an important decision,” Andriy Jermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said now. “We communicate with our partners that sport cannot be outside of politics.”
Currently, IOC sanctions mean that no international sporting events can be held on the territory of Russia or its ally Belarus, and flags, national anthems or any other national symbol of either country cannot be used.
Earlier this week, European football’s governing body UEFA abandoned plans to reinstate Russian under-17 teams to next year’s European youth championships after opposition from various national football associations.
Russian athletes were only allowed to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, held before the invasion of Ukraine, as the ROC team due to Russia’s ban for doping violations.