By Karolos Grohmann
10:47 AM UTC – November 3, 2023
BERLIN (Reuters) – Russia’s attempt to compare the country’s Olympic Committee suspension with the situation of Israeli athletes following the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas was out of place, the International Olympic Committee said on Friday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday said the IOC was aligning itself with western political decisions after the Olympic body had said any discrimination against athletes at the Games would be swiftly dealt with because they are not responsible for the decisions of their governments.
The IOC had been responding to a question regarding Israeli athletes participating at next year’s Paris Olympics and the potential refusal of other nations’ athletes to compete against them over the ongoing conflict.
Lavrov called the IOC statement “shameful”, saying it “proves its political bias”.
“This (Russian) is a unique situation and cannot be compared to any other war or conflict in the world, because the measures taken and recommendations made by the IOC are a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army during the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022,” an IOC spokesperson said.
The IOC did not ban the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) until last month after it recognised regional organisations from four territories annexed from Ukraine.
The IOC said on Oct. 12 the ROC would be banned with immediate effect after it recognised Olympic Councils from the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
“This constitutes a breach of the Olympic Charter because it violates the territorial integrity of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, as recognised by the IOC in accordance with the Olympic Charter,” the IOC spokesperson said.
Lavrov on Thursday said the IOC was just kowtowing to western powers when it said discriminatory behaviour would be punished at the Olympics.
“This, of course, is outrageous,” Lavrov said. “Once again we see an example of the bias and failure of the International Olympic Committee, which time after time proves its political bias.”
“Everything that is responsible interests of Western countries, primarily the United States, it actively supports and tries to find formulations that will generally approve of this line,” he said. “Shameful and of course, the IOC greatly discredited itself.”
A decision on whether Russian athletes will be allowed to take part in the Paris Olympics as neutrals without a flag or anthem has yet to be taken but the IOC has repeatedly said it would not punish athletes for government decisions.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber, editing by Ed Osmond