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The International Gymnastics Federation allows Russians & Belarusians to compete as “neutral,” claiming that “gymnastics is seeking peace”

A Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who also has background in gymnastics competitions, is simultaneously a member of the International Committee, a Russian serviceman (mayor), and a member of the Russian Central Sports Club of the Army.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as “individual neutral athletes,” condemning the “senseless invasion of Ukraine by Russia” and claiming that “gymnastics is seeking peace.” The decision softens the previous ban for Russian & Belarusian athletes imposed in May 2022.

The FIG Executive Committee decided on 19 July 2023, according to its statement

to authorize, under strict conditions, the participation of athletes and support personnel of Russian and Belarusian sporting nationality in FIG sanctioned events as “individual neutral athletes” without any involvement or association with the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus, their respective National Federations or National Olympic Committees. To impose a strict requirement of neutrality with regard to the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus for any participation in a FIG sanctioned event.

Any athlete wishing to obtain the status of “individual neutral athlete” will have to apply to the FIG in accordance with the Ad-hoc Rules. This should lead, if the conditions are met, to the granting of “individual neutral athlete” status by the FIG. Athletes who are granted this status will be eligible to participate in FIG-sanctioned events from 1 January 2024, the FIG Committee decided.

However, according to an investigation by the Ukrainian sports news outlet Tribuna, at least six Russian nationals affiliated with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) support Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The list includes, in particular, Olena Isinbaeva, who is a Russian serviceman with the rank of mayor, member of the Russian Central Sport Club of the Army and at the same time member of the IOC.

Whether Russian and Belarusian athletes will be eligible to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games is the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee. The Olympic body’s president Thomas Bach has previously said the IOC can take its own final decision “at the appropriate time, at its full discretion” after “monitoring the situation.”

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