Olympics-Now is not the time to lift Russia, Belarus sanctions-IOC

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends the opening of the Executive Board meeting at the Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland, December 5, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Pool

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has no immediate plans to lift sanctions on Russia and Belarus even though the qualifying process for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics goes into full swing next year, the Olympic body said on Monday.

The IOC issued guidance to sports governing bodies in February to remove from competition athletes from Russia and Belarus, which Moscow used as a key staging area for the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine that Russia calls a 'special operation'.

Speaking on the first day of the IOC's Executive Board meeting, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said there had been no change to the sanctions put in place at the start of the war in Ukraine despite the Paris Games starting in just over a year and a half.

"Now is not the time to be lifting sanctions on the Russians or the Belarusians," Adams said. "The sanctions remain very much in place."

While events that count towards qualification in some sports for the Paris Olympics have already been held, most sports will stage their continental or global qualification events in the coming 18 months.

A total of 32 sports are on the programme for the Olympics in 2024 with over 10,000 athletes expected to qualify in total.

"In the end it is a little bit of speculation (as to when sanctions could be lifted) ... but there are many factors at the moment," Adams said. "We are still some way away from the Games. Admittedly qualification is soon to begin.

"We have to see how things go. It is a rapidly changing, often a daily changing, situation there. The sanctions remain in place for the time being. I would not want to comment on the state of qualification of athletes for Paris."

While the IOC's position could change in the future, some federations have been clear that the only way to reinstate Russia and Belarus in their sport would be the removal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

"This is fairly simple. Get out of Ukraine," said World Athletics President Seb Coe said last week.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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