Olympics-IOC opposes Ukraine sanctions on sport governing bodies

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Olympic Rings in front of the Olympic House, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), during the executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 28, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

(Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday that it would oppose a move by the Ukrainian government to strip national sports governing bodies of their national status if their athletes compete against Russians or Belarusians.

The IOC sanctioned Russia and Belarus after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 but last week said it recommended allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals in international competition.

On Wednesday, the Olympic body responded to a Ukrainian government decree that would deprive federations of their status if their athletes compete on the international stage against Russians and Belarusians, saying it raised "serious questions about the autonomy of Ukrainian sport."

"Such a decision would a) hurt only the Ukrainian athlete community and the National Sports Federations, and in no way impact the war that the world wants to stop, and that the IOC has so vehemently condemned," the IOC said in a statement posted online.

The IOC included a statement attributed to the Ukrainian Tennis Federation that said the move would "lead to the destruction of Ukrainian tennis."

"Players from these countries take part in almost every competition, and will become a sanction not against the Russians, but against the Ukrainians," the statement read.

Ukraine previously decided not to allow their athletes to compete in qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics if those competitions included Russian athletes.

The IOC is to make a separate decision on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the 2024 Games at a later date, while Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Games if Russians are allowed to compete there.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Toby Davis)

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