(Reuters) – Russia is looking into boycotting fencing qualifying competitions for next year’s Paris Olympic Games after some fencers were not allowed to compete, Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said on Thursday.
Russian Fencing Federation president Ilgar Mammadov had said the International Fencing Federation (FIE) prevented Olympic gold medallists Yana Egorian, Sofya Velikaya, Olga Nikitina and Sofia Pozdniakova — Pozdnyakov’s daughter — from competing.
While Russians and Belarusians have been given the green light to compete as neutrals by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), athletes contracted to the military or national security agencies of both nations cannot do so.
All four fencers are affiliated to Central Sports Army Club (CSKA) Moscow.
“As for fencing, I have repeatedly discussed with national team members the way they could return,” TASS quoted Pozdnyakov as saying in his Telegram channel.
“I can say that none of them have considered or are considering the possibility of performing at international tournaments under the existing restrictions.
“The position is unanimous. Our fencers will participate only if they have equal rights with athletes from other countries, with no far-fetched or unlawful criteria and other artificial hurdles.”
Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, conveyed the Kremlin’s criticism to TASS.
“We strongly disapprove of such decisions. We consider it absolutely wrong to subject athletes to any political requirements for their participation in international competitions,” he said.
“Athletes should have the right to participate in competitions, to defend their sporting honour and the sporting honour of their country.”
Reuters has contacted the FIE for comment. Although fencers from Russia and Belarus were cleared to return to international competition before the 2024 Olympic qualifiers began, events have been cancelled over their participation.
Denmark, Norway, Germany and Poland have cancelled international events while Norway has said its fencers will not participate in events in which Russian and Belarusian athletes are taking part.
(Reporting by Tommy Lund and Tomasz Kanik in Gdansk, editing by Ed Osmond)