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Bach said Russia’s ban was to protect athletes, not punish them

GENEVA –

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Russian athletes and officials banned from international sporting events because of the war in Ukraine were being protected rather than punished.

Most sports bodies have followed IOC guidance given on February 28 – four days after Russia began the invasion – by removing teams and athletes from international competitions. their. In football, the Russian teams were eliminated from the World Cup qualifiers for men and women.

Russian football is challenging those and other decisions at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Bach’s speech on Friday is likely to be repeated by defense lawyers in more pending hearings. handling.

“I would like to stress again that these are protective measures, not punitive measures. Measures to protect the integrity of competitions,” Bach told IOC members in a statement. online meeting. “The safety of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials cannot be guaranteed because of the deep anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian sentiments in so many countries after the invasion.”

Sanctions should apply only to “people responsible for something,” Bach said, explaining why the IOC withdrew the honor of the Olympic Order from Russian officials – even though he did not name Russian President Vladimir Putin – and advised sports to postpone events in which Russia attended. to be saved.

The severity of the response to Russia and Belarus has raised questions – including FIFA – football’s governing body – about why other countries wage war and even genocide before. faced similar isolation.

“The war in Ukraine is different because it’s a flagrant violation of the Olympic Ceasefire,” Bach said of a modern revival of an ancient tradition aimed at halting hostilities and for athletes. travel safely before and after an Olympics.

A few weeks before the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, UN member states, including Russia, approved an armistice that would last until mid-March, after the Winter Olympics.

Putin was in Beijing for the opening ceremony as Russia deployed thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border.

Russia’s breach of the truce is the third time in 14 years. There was a military conflict with neighboring Georgia on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and it annexed Ukraine’s territory in Crimea shortly after hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Bach also justified the response to banning the Russian athlete by saying that the “far-reaching political, social and economic consequences of the war made it a turning point in world history.”

Bach separates himself from Putin, with whom he has been openly close around the Sochi Olympics. That Winter Olympics was ruined by a state-backed doping program in Russia.

“The (IOC’s) relationship with the Russian political leadership has deteriorated significantly over the years,” said Bach, citing the doping scandal, Russian hacker attacks and “even even personal threats to individuals”.

Bach moved to defend honorary and active Russian IOC members who were allowed to participate online at Friday’s meeting. They include two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva, an officer in the Russian army.

The IOC did not suspend Russian members who did not publicly criticize the war.

“It wouldn’t do justice if you drew everyone with the same brush,” Bach said, noting that a new Russian law could punish dissidents with up to 15 years in prison. . “We can appreciate that in such cases silence can be a message in itself.”

In recent weeks, Russian athletes who have made public gestures in support of the war have been banned from participating in international competitions in gymnastics and swimming.

“We are closely monitoring those who are supporting this war with their statements or actions,” Bach said. “We have drawn and will draw the necessary (conclusions).”

Bach did not say whether Russian teams, athletes and officials would be banned from participating in the 2024 Paris Olympics, but he noted that there would be “a time to rebuild bridges” through the sport. sports.

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