President Vladimir Putin on Thursday lashed out at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for effectively suspending Russia from the Olympic movement, accusing it of using the Games as a tool of politics and racism.
Last week the IOC banned the Russian Olympic Committee for recognising regional bodies from four territories that Moscow claims to have annexed from Ukraine.
“Thanks to some of the leaders of the modern International Olympic Committee, we learned that an invitation to the Games is not an unconditional right of the best athletes, but a kind of privilege, and can be earned not by sporting results, but by political gestures that have nothing to do with sport at all,” Putin told the “Russia – Sporting Power” conference in the Urals city of Perm.
“And that the Games themselves can be used as an instrument of political pressure against people who have nothing to do with politics. And as gross, and in fact racist, ethnic discrimination.”
Russia has been at odds with the Olympic movement ever since its own Sochi Winter Games in 2014, where its athletes were found to have benefited for years from a large-scale state-sponsored doping programme – something Moscow denied.
As a result, since 2018, Russians considered to be doping-free have been allowed to compete at the Olympics only under neutral flags. The IOC did not say last week whether they would be admitted to Paris 2024.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, which it calls a “special military operation”, has triggered more sporting sanctions, including exclusion from international soccer.
On Thursday, Putin commended new multinational events among non-Western states to Russia’s sportsmen and sportswomen, including games being organised by the BRICS group of emerging countries in the city of Kazan next year.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko announced plans for a new soccer league involving 10 teams from occupied regions of Ukraine, promising to invest 3.2 billion roubles ($33 million) in sports infrastructure there.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, said in Perm that the key thing now was to prepare athletes for the 2028 Games.
“I’m confident that, by then, our athletes will be able to take part as a fully fledged team,” he told the military news outlet Zvezda. ($1 = 97.3125 roubles)
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