Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), cautioned Russian athletes from endorsing the Ukrainian military incursion.
Bach argued that sanctions on Russian sports were implemented partially for the benefit of the country’s athletes. He warned any Russian athletes against supporting their country’s military assault in Ukraine.
At an IOC session in Switzerland on Friday, Bach spoke on the matter. He said that the IOC was compelled to suggest a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from all international contests because Moscow “blatantly violated the Olympic Truce.”
Bach argued that the basis for excluding Russian and Belarusian sports was “twofold,” considering the safety of athletes from the two countries.
“Our actions are twofold: sanctions on the one hand and protective measures on the other…,” Bach said.
“We had to take protective measures to ensure the integrity of international competitions. For this, we had to recommend not to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials to take part in competitions, or at least to prohibit any identification of their nationality.
“Let me emphasize that these are protective measures, not sanctions, measures to protect the integrity of competitions.”
“The safety of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials could not be guaranteed because of the deep anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian feelings in so many countries,” the German continued.
The Olympic chief sought to defend why Russian athletes had been forced into international isolation. He claimed that ties with the Russian government leadership had dramatically deteriorated in recent years.
Personal punishments have been imposed on certain Russian sportsmen, including double Olympic champion swimmer Evgeny Rylov and gymnast Ivan Kuliak. They allegedly made public gestures in support of the situation in Ukraine.
FINA banned Rylov for nine months when he appeared on stage at a Moscow event in March to commemorate Russia’s reunification with Crimea. He wore a ‘Z’ emblem on his jacket, which has been used by the Russian military in Ukraine.
Gymnastic Kuliak was given a one-year suspension by FIG this week. He attached a ‘Z’ to his leotard during a competition in Doha.
Bach delivered a thinly disguised warning to any Russian athletes considering showing support for the country’s government.
“We are monitoring closely who is supporting this war with their statements or actions and have drawn and will draw the necessary consequences,” said Bach.
“This has been demonstrated for example by FINA and FIG, who have sanctioned athletes that have expressed such support for the war.”
Russian athletic and political figures have slammed the IOC’s attitude. They claimed that it is discriminatory and contradicts Olympic values.
The Russian Union of Athletes went so far as to call the situation a “sports genocide” against their nation.