Swimming-Russian and Belarusian athletes given green light to compete as neutrals

Swimming - 18th FINA World Swimming Championships - Men's 4x200m Freestyle Final - Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, Gwangju, South Korea - July 26, 2019. Team Russia competes. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

(Reuters) - Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete as neutrals in World Aquatics events, the sport's governing body said on Monday.

Competitors from both countries were banned from international tournaments following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which Moscow describes as a "special military operation". Belarus has been a key staging point for the invasion.

A maximum of one "individual neutral athlete" from the two federations will be allowed to compete per event and under the strict criteria set by the independent Aquatics Integrity Unit, to include robust anti-doping measures.

"The World Aquatics Bureau recognise the dedication, commitment, and talent of athletes, regardless of their nationality," World Aquatics President Husain Al Musallam said in a statement.

"Despite the challenges we face on the international stage, we acknowledge our responsibility to foster a competitive, fair, and inclusive environment for every competitor," he added.

Criteria for the allowance of Russian and Belarusian competitors were established by a specific task force set up by the sports body in April, in line with the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee.

(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City)

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