Ukraine pushes for continued Russian Olympic exclusion

Ukraine renewed its push to keep Russian athletes out of the Olympics on Friday ahead of an International Olympic Committee board meeting next week which is expected to set the framework for their return to international sports events. Vadym Guttsait, who is Ukraine’s sports minister and leads the national Olympic committee, was sharply critical of the IOC’s push to reintegrate Russia and its ally Belarus into world sports. Any return, Guttsait said, would highlight the inequality caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We do not have normal conditions for training and preparation for the Olympic Games. At the same time, the Russians have all the essentials to train and perform inside their country. They sleep at night, but we don’t sleep at night,” he told reporters. The IOC is expected to set out criteria for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete next week as qualifying events for the Paris Olympics ramp up. The IOC recommended excluding Russia and Belarus on safety grounds soon after the invasion last year but now argues for letting the two countries’ athletes compete as neutrals without national symbols. The IOC says a continued exclusion amounts to discrimination on the basis of citizenship. IOC president Thomas Bach said Wednesday that it would resist political influence in sports and indicated that next week’s meeting could discuss issues including Russian athletes’ military links. The IOC has said it would seek to bar athletes who have “actively supported” the war but hasn’t said how exactly that process would work. Ukraine is especially concerned about the many Russian athletes who are serving members of the armed forces or who represent military-run sports clubs. “If there will be very weak criteria, then what was the point of suspending Russia (a year ago), to bring it back now, in the run-up to the Olympic Games?” Guttsait said. Guttsait reiterated Ukraine’s earlier vow that it could consider boycotting the Paris Olympics in prote