May 19. 2024. 1:03

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Leave the IOC to hand out medals only to Russians, Belarusians in Paris


The scandalous decision by the International Olympic Committee Executive Board to open the door to the participation of Russia and Belarus at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris should lead to all other sports teams boycotting this competition, argues Orhan Dragaš.

Many people in Serbia are still convinced that their football players would have been European champions in 1992. There are even more who believe that the basketball players from Serbia and Montenegro were the only team that ever had a chance to beat the US Dream Team at the Olympics in Barcelona, also in 1992.

However, the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which consisted of Serbia and Montenegro, could not participate in international sports competitions due to the sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations. Russia voted in favour of those sanctions in the Security Council.

Athletes share the fate of the country they represent on the international stage. If their country threatens international peace and if the majority of members of the world community state this, it is excluded from the community, including the sports one. Three decades ago, it was Serbia; today, it is Russia.

However, the IOC Executive Board recently decided to open the door to the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus at the Olympic Games in Paris next year.

No matter how hard you try, this decision has nothing to do with sports and athletes, instead, it is an insult to everything that international sports is meant to represent.

Even if there were no aggression against Ukraine, there should be no place for Russian athletes in the stadiums in Paris next year. Asides from the war in Ukraine, just two months ago, they served their sentence of exclusion from international competitions due to a systematic state doping project.

There are no guarantees that Russia has learned its lesson, as cheating at sports competitions can be seen as a deep-rooted Russian model that has been nurtured since the Soviet Union.

Nothing would stop Moscow from doping its athletes at the next Olympics. Russia would present the medals they won as proof of their (national) superiority over others, particularly in the current geopolitical context. Despite state-backed competitive fraud, the IOC has given Russia the mandate to continue on that path.

It is even more difficult for the IOC to ignore the biggest bloodshed since the Second World War and to pretend not to see that for a year, Russia has been destroying an independent country, killing thousands of civilians, including top Ukrainian athletes.

The attempts of the IOC and its head Thomas Bach to find conditions under which Russian athletes could be at the Paris Olympics do not hold much water.

How could they plan to enforce that only those who did not “actively support the war in Ukraine” could compete? Would their statement, or the testimony of two witnesses, be enough, or would the IOC just take the word of the Russian Olympic Committee?

How do they think they can prevent a repeat of the gesture of gymnast Ivan Kuliak or anyone from the Russian team getting on the podium with the letter Z printed on their jerseys?

Do they really think that Putin would miss the opportunity to promote his criminal aggression against Ukraine in Paris in front of a global audience of several billion?

Who will prevent the two-time Olympic champion from Tokyo Evgeny Rylov, who participated in a rally in support of Putin and the aggression against Ukraine at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium in March last year, from defending his medals in Paris? Needless to say, he wore the letter Z on his clothes.

After all, almost half of the 71 medals that Russia won at the last Olympics in Tokyo were won by athletes from CSKA, the club of the Russian army, which has been carrying out illegal aggression against another country for a year, committing war crimes.

The IOC pretends they know nothing about the case of two-time Olympic champion, basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested by Russia and sentenced to nine years in prison so that they could exchange her for one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers.

Russian sports federations, clubs, including the National Olympic Committee, were never, and particularly today, sports associations, but an important part of the state structure and a very effective means of its propaganda.

Every sporting success under the flag of Russia is considered an act of patriotism, and in the conditions of a war invasion, it is treated as heroism on the battlefield. This kind of manipulation has been allowed by the IOC, trampling on every principle of the Olympic Movement they were supposed to be protecting.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, wants no Russian athletes at the 2024 Olympics until their country’s aggression against Ukraine stops.

She does not want them, their fans, and particularly their country, to get any positive image while they are occupying another country.

A boycott of the Paris Olympics, advocated by Poland, the Baltic states and others, in addition to Ukraine, is the only practical way for the IOC to change its mind and not allow Russia to use the Paris Olympics for its conquest goals.