Canadian Olympians push to oppose Russians in Paris
A group of 42 retired Canadian Olympians have urged the Canadian Olympic Committee to reject the idea of allowing Russians to compete in the Paris Games next year unless Russia pulls out of Ukraine.
“We condemn recent public statements by the COC supporting ‘the exploration of a pathway’ for Russians and Belarusians to compete as ‘neutrals’ at the 2024 Paris Olympics,” the Canadians wrote in a statement released. Wednesday.
According to the athletes, opening this door “sends the message that the COC is no longer concerned about Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine”.
The statement was signed by a who’s-who of Canadian Olympic greats and gold medalists, including Hayley Wickenheiser (hockey), Jenn Heil and Alex Bilodeau (freestyle skiing), Tessa Virtue (skating) and Beckie Scott (cross-country skiing). ).
Russian and Belarusian athletes have been largely excluded from international competition since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February. The International Olympic Committee is seeking a path back so these athletes can compete without officially representing their country, citing human rights experts who argue that athletes should not be discriminated against solely because of their passports.
“To deny their participation in international sport is not simply a matter of denying athletes the choice to compete because of their passports, it is a rejection of illegal and inhumane warfare and a recognition of the role that international sport plays in geopolitics,” the Canadians wrote. .
The COC walked a fine line in establishing a position. Last month, General Secretary David Shoemaker suggested that athletes from banned countries should be required to speak out publicly against the war to gain the neutral status they would need to compete.
Canada was also part of a group of 35 governments that issued a statement last month saying that, without clarity on a viable neutrality model, “we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to return to competition.”
COC and governments stopped short of saying Russians should not be allowed.
In their statement, the Canadian Olympians said the requirement for Russians to declare their opposition to the war is “unfounded and out of touch”.
“For example, it is illegal in Russia to publicly denounce military actions abroad, and virtually impossible for top athletes to oppose war,” the statement said.
He also used cases in 2018 and 2021 where Russians could compete not under their country’s flag – but rather under the titles of “Olympic Athletes of Russia” and “Russian Olympic Committee” due to anti-doping sanctions – as examples of how “separating athletes from statehood is an impossible task.
The letter also points out that the war began shortly after last year’s Winter Games in Beijing, which were highlighted by a high-profile meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping before the opening ceremony.
“The Beijing 2022 Games helped set the stage and dictate the timing of the initial invasion, sports facilities in Ukraine were targeted by Russian attacks, and Russian athletes were elevated to high-ranking military positions and used in war propaganda,” the letter read.
He concluded that “no avenue should be considered” for Russians or Belarusians to compete in Paris until Russia “completely withdraws from Ukraine”.
AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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