The Ukrainian government on Thursday was criticised by IOC President Thomas Bach for preventing some athletes from competing in Olympic qualifying events for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris along with Russians and Belarusians.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian athletes have missed world or European championship competitions in judo, fencing, and taekwondo where Russians and Belarusians could participate after receiving neutrality approval.
Sports governing organizations must apply the definition of neutrality, which the IOC and Bach created in March. This definition entails competing without the use of the national anthem, flag, or colors, as well as refraining from openly promoting the conflict. It is up to these organizations to decide how or whether they will implement it.
“It is hard to understand why the Ukrainian government is depriving their own athletes from their chance to qualify” for Paris, Thomas Bach said in a keynote speech to an International Olympic Committee online meeting.
“Sanctions from their own government”
Bach stated that Ukrainian athletes were “facing sanctions from their own government,” while emphasizing that the IOC and Olympic sports bodies aimed to support them in their preparation for “any competition they wish to participate in.”
He did not specify if that could mean financial support for athletes in what appeared to suggest defying Ukrainian government and sports officials. The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for more details.
Bach opened a 25-minute speech to IOC members insisting “our outrage of this brutal war, our compassion with the human suffering and our solidarity with the Ukrainian Olympic community remain as strong as ever.”
He criticized Russia once for “shamelessly” holding talks about creating “fully politicized sport competitions” as a potential rival to Olympic-approved events.
Those talks included China, which Bach has tried to keep as a close ally before and since the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, which closed four days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Otherwise, Bach tried to position the IOC in the middle ground between both sides of the war, unhappy at its position ahead of the Paris Olympics.