Olympics-Russian athletes who do not back invasion of Ukraine could return to competing - IOC president


FILE PHOTO: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks at the opening of the executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the Olympic House, in Lausanne, Switzerland September 8, 2022. Laurent Gillieron/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

(Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering a return to competition of Russian athletes who do not support the country's invasion of Ukraine, IOC president Thomas Bach said on Friday.

The IOC issued guidance to sports governing bodies in February to remove Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition. Belarus has been used as a staging ground for Russia's invasion, which Moscow calls a "special military operation".

"It is not about necessarily having Russia back. It's about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition," Bach told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

"Here comes our dilemma – this war has not been started by the Russian athletes. But we saw that some governments did not want to respect anymore the autonomy of international sports...

"This is why we've had to take these protective measures to be at least still a little bit in the driving seat and not lose all autonomy.

"And this is why, on the other hand, we also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever."

The German stressed that the current guidance on Russian athletes was still standing but added that the IOC also needed to think about the future. Some qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics have already taken place.

"There is no change in the recommendations... We are very grateful to the International Federations that they are following them," Bach added.

"The Olympic Movement has as a mission to contribute to peace, so we have to see how we can contribute to peace.

"I think our major contribution is to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity."

(Reporting by Silvia Recchimuzzi in Gdansk and Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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