Olympics-Vetting of Russian, Belarusian athletes for Paris Games ongoing-IOC

FILE PHOTO: Mark Adams Director of Communications at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attends a news conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, December 5, 2019. Picture taken December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The vetting process for Russian and Belarusian athletes who have qualified for the Paris Olympics has started but is far from complete, the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the IOC initially recommended a ban from international competitions of athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus, but has since allowed them to qualify for the Paris Olympics as neutrals.

Yet each qualified athlete is undergoing a vetting process by a three-member panel appointed by the IOC to make sure they meet certain eligibility criteria.

Not having actively supported the war in Ukraine and not having been contracted to any military or security agency are among those criteria.

"The vetting process is ongoing," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a press conference. "It is ongoing and will continue towards the Games."

"I cannot give you the exact deadline. The reason it is taking so long is we are doing it very, very thoroughly."

"We need to get the information from a lot of people. So the process has to be done properly."

The IOC has said it expects to see about 36 Russian and 22 Belarusian athletes competing as neutrals in Paris.

The maximum number, depending on qualification standards and country quotas, and which is unlikely to be reached, would be 54 and 28 respectively.

"You can imagine the amount of work required to go through a full and through process," said IOC sports director Kit McConnell.

"That includes review of contracting situations, social media and so on."

"In terms of timelines we are conscious of confirming the places available. We are working with international federations and trying to do that as quickly as possible... but obviously in a very thorough way."

The Paris Olympics kick off on July 26.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis)

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