IOC cites human rights for Russia stance
GENEVA, Switzerland (AP):
The IOC stepped up efforts on Thursday to explain the position on trying to help Russian athletes qualify for next year's Paris Olympics amid a backlash from Ukraine and their allies.
The International Olympic Committee's move last week to map a pathway to Paris for athletes from Russia and Belarus who have not actively supported the war provoked strong objections from Ukraine, which wants to see those countries remain banned from most international sports.
Publishing a series of explanations and rebuttals to critics on Thursday, the Olympic body also responded to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's invitation for his IOC counterpart Thomas Bach to return and see the ruined city of Bakhmut.
"Currently there are no plans for another visit to Ukraine," the IOC said, noting that Bach visited Kyiv last July and had since spoken with Zelenskyy in telephone calls.
The IOC once more cited the opinion of two United Nations human rights experts who support the view that Russians and Belarusians should not face discrimination just for the passport they hold. Instead, they could compete under a neutral flag.
That view has been challenged in recent days by two Ukrainian medallists at the Tokyo Olympics, tennis player Elina Svitolina and high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh, and by boxer Wladimir Klitschko, who took gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. They want a total ban on Russia and Belarus from Paris.
Olympic officials in Ukraine have warned they could boycott Paris and are meeting today to discuss it.
"It is extremely regretful to escalate this discussion with a threat of a boycott at this premature stage," the IOC said yesterday.
Olympic officials in Latvia and Poland are also threatening a boycott, and those countries were joined by Estonia and Lithuania in a statement yesterday by sports ministers which suggested the sports debate was being used "as a distraction from the illegal aggression against Ukraine."
"It is natural that there are dissenting voices coming mainly from neighbouring countries of Ukraine, given their specific situation," said the IOC, whose Olympic Charter obliges the 206 national Olympic bodies to send a team to the Summer Games.