Ukrainian athletes are demanding a regulatory boycott of athletes from Russia and Belarus in the international arena, especially the 2024 Summer Olympics set to be held in Paris.

Last weekend, some of Ukraine’s top-ranked tennis players demonstrated their opposition on the court in an international women's tournament in Germany.

Their major point of contention: Russian and Belarusian athletes won’t voice opposition to the war their governments have brought to Ukraine.

On Saturday, May 27, Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina, who beat Russian tennis player Anna Blinkova in the final of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in Strasburg, refused to shake her opponent’s hand. 

“If Russian and Belarusian players support military aggression, they wish our relatives, friends and us to be dead,” said Svitolina.

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The next day, on Sunday, Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk left the court without shaking hands with Aryna Sabalenka, a Belarusian tennis player.

While Sabalenka has not condemned her native Belarus support of the Russian war in Ukraine, she said at a news conference after her win: “Nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, support the war. Nobody.”

In a video posted to Twitter, Kostyuk said of Sabalenka: “To reject her responsibility of having an opinion on the most important things in the world, I cannot respect that. She said I hate her. I never said I hate her, I just don’t respect her.”

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Kazakh tennis player Elena Rybakina, who was born in Russia and spent her first 18 years there, and whose parents still live in Russia, deflected when asked about the war, claiming her English skills were limited, despite holding lengthy news conferences in English on a variety of subjects throughout the tournament, the New York Times reports.

Other Russian-born tennis players, including Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov have also avoided commenting on the Russian invasion, other than to say they were in favor of peace, though they did not elaborate under what circumstances that peace should be.

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Russian tennis player Anastasia Gasanova is known for her posts on her Instagram, where she echoes statements of Kremlin propagandists.

Despite this the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is still considering the conditions for allowing participation of Russians and Belarusians in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The IOC Executive Board named two possible conditions for the participation of Russians and Belarusians in competitions:

1. They will compete as neutral athletes.

2. Only those Russians and Belarusians who support the “peaceful mission of the IOC,” do not violate the anti-doping code and do not support the war in Ukraine will be invited to the Olympics. At the same time, each athlete is promised to be checked individually for compliance with these provisions. The evaluation procedures would be developed later.

To date, the IOC has made no final decision on the current status of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the upcoming games, pending further discussions within the International Sports Federation.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s first-ranked tennis player, former athlete Serhii Stakhovsky, who took up arms at the beginning of the full-scale invasion to defend Ukraine, has taken a strong position related the IOC’s option of admitting Russian and Belarusian athletes to the Olympics in Paris-2024 under a neutral flag.

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“In my opinion, this would just be a slap in the face of every Ukrainian athlete who would go to the Olympics – if any go there at all,” said Stakhovsky.

“Imagine being sent to the 100 meter race alongside Russian athletes who support the war, whose family members serve in the army and who may even have killed Ukrainians.

“And God forbid if they killed the family members of athletes who stand with them on the same line.”

The governments of almost 30 countries have called on the Olympic committee to remove Russian and Belarusian athletes from participation in Paris in 2024. A  letter addressed to the IOC, signed by representatives of the governments of Germany, Great Britain and the US, as well as France, was produced following a Feb. 10 summit in London, where President Zelensky voiced his concerns with Ukraine’s allies agreeing.

In part, the letter reads: “We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ under the IOC’s conditions of no identification with their country when they are directly funded and supported by their states (unlike, for example, professional tennis players).”

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“The strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also of clear concern,” the letter said.

Our collective approach throughout has therefore never been one of discrimination simply on the basis of nationality, but these strong concerns need to be dealt with by the IOC.”

The French signature will give the committee its biggest headache as Paris is hosting next year’s Olympics.

 

Signatories to the letter also include Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

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Comments (2)

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I support
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Just ban them ok!

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William Spillman
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The IOC is on the side of the Russian dictatorship. Its excuses don't hold water. Shame on them.

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