Global Athlete 1

International Olympic Committee Supports Russia’s War of Aggression in Ukraine

23 DATE 2023: Today’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in qualifiers to attend the 2024 Paris Olympic Games sends a message to the world that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) endorses Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine. By allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, the IOC is strengthening Russia’s propaganda machine, empowering the Putin regime, and undermining peace.

Russian officials have consistently and publicly promoted their athletes’ involvement in the war. Russian National Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov blatantly stated that “the country’s athletes should be honoured to fight in the war of Ukraine.” This mindset has been longstanding as Russia has proven time and time again that athletes are an integral part of its foreign policy. Athletes have consistently been elevated to high-ranking military positions and used in state propaganda. The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition, especially the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, will see the Russian state use athletes once more to bolster the war effort and distract from the atrocities in Ukraine on one of the biggest multi-sport stages in the world. We’ve seen the IOC include Russia as ‘neutral athletes’ before, only to be rebranded as Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR). This decision compels the other 204 nations attending the Games to stand with and compete against an army of athletes forced to endorse Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The IOC claims that fairness requires that no athlete be punished for the actions of their government. This position ignores the reality of international sport as a tool of geopolitics – the Russian Olympic Team is part of the Russian state and Russian athletes are not politically free. Every Russian athlete competing in Paris has the potential to incite further lives lost in Ukraine.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Russia has complete control over the IOC and its leadership. The IOC is allowing the Games to be used for sportwashing – to normalize, legitimize, and distract from the war. As a servant of Russia, the IOC continues to be on the wrong side of history with this decision that favours politics over principle and war over peace.

As we have stated before, we recognize that the IOC cannot stop the violence. However, we do know that as leaders of sport, the IOC stands in a powerful position to prevent Russia from continuing to use athletes and sport as a tool of foreign policy. The IOC has the responsibility to enact its Olympic Charter and Strategic Framework on Human Rights, which states that “the goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Today’s decision contradicts the IOC Charter and their Human Rights Framework.    

The suspension of both Russian and Belarusian athletes and their sporting officials must be fully reinstated until Russia withdraws completely from Ukraine. We acknowledge that reinstating the ban will pain many Russian and Belarusian athletes and will deny them an opportunity to pursue their careers on the world stage. We recognize that athletes are not the powerbrokers who are responsible for this war. Our call today is a hard stance with a real human cost. However, the cost on Russian and Belarusian athletes pales in comparison to the atrocities experienced by every single Ukrainian.

We invite athletes of the world to join and support Ukrainian athletes in their call for the IOC to fully ban Russia and Belarus from the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Athletes can sign on to this letter by emailing hello@globalathlete.org. By standing together, athletes can force the IOC to stand up for human rights and peace.

Signed on behalf of: 

Athletes for Ukraine 

Global Athlete

Supported by:

Belarus Sport Solidarity Federation Athletes