Impact of Russia-Ukraine Relations in the Sports World

by Emma Jia ’24

Source: New York Times

Published Apr. 7th, 2022

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many international sports organizations have questioned how to deal with Russian athletes. With humanitarian causes rising to the forefront of the sports world, a multitude of steps have been taken against Russian athletes, greatly restricting their ability to compete.

The International Olympic Committee has urged all international sports organizations to ban both Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating; While these consequences seem harsh, the ferocity of the Russian invasion has left Ukrainian athletes unable to compete, causing the committee to enforce their ban on Russian athletes.

Furthermore, the IOC has also stripped Russian leaders of the Olympic Movement’s highest award, including Vladimir Putin. Despite the IOC’s traditional bipartisan stance, the worldwide criticism of Russian leaders has left the committee little choice but to follow suit.

Similarly, the World Athletics Council has also banned both Russian and Belarusian athletes from their upcoming events and is considering a suspension of the Belarus Federation, as a ban was already placed on the Russian Athletics Federation back in 2015. 

The International Paralympic Committee has agreed with this, banning the same athletes from attending the Winter Paralympics. This decision is likely to prevent any mass boycott from other nations, allowing the Paralympics to run as usual.

Many other sports organizations have made similar decisions, ranging from stripping awards from Russian Officials to making players from Russia and Belarus play as neutral, or outright banning the athletes. Almost no athletes have been allowed to compete under the Russian flag.

This public outcry is not only limited to organizations, as athletes are using their global platforms to spread awareness and encourage peace between the warring nations. Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev went viral after scrubbing “No War Please” on the lens of a matchside camera, landing his message all over ESPN, Instagram, Facebook, and other social sites. Ukrainian athletes have taken a similar stance, with NBA players Svi Mykhailuik and Alex Len issuing a joint statement that “categorically condemned” the war. 

Whether global sports organizations continue to renew these bans hangs largely on the results of the invasion. With sports becoming more involved in human rights and politics across the globe, some doubt that some of the restrictions will ever be lifted, and if Russia’s position in the sports world will forever be tarnished.

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