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G7 support of Russian athletes returning to competition welcomed, criticized

“The idea that a sports organization can exist autonomous from its state has been proven a fallacy, making this stance by the G7 leaders a disappointing one."

BOW VALLEY – The Group of Seven (G7) Leaders support Russian and Belarusian athletes return to international competition; granted, they don’t wear their countries’ colours.

During the annual G7 Summit from May 19-21 in Hiroshima, Japan, the collective stated they are “fully respecting the autonomy of sporting organizations” and want to ensure that “Russian and Belarusian athletes are in no way appearing as representatives of their states” when attempting to qualify to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“We are also paying attention to the impact of Russia’s aggression on international sport,” the G7 statement added.

The announcement was welcomed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is recommending that Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to return to international competition, with rules attached. However, the IOC and G7 have received public criticism for their stance, including from local advocates.

“The idea that a sports organization can exist autonomous from its state has been proven a fallacy, making this stance by the G7 leaders a disappointing one,” said Canmore's Kelly VanderBeek in a statement.

In March, VanderBeek, a retired alpine ski Olympian, along with 41 other retired Canadian Olympians, signed a joint statement condemning any support for Russians and Belarusians having eased regulations to allow a pathway to compete as neutrals at the Paris Olympics.

Due to speaking out against the hostile actions Russia and Belarus have taken toward Ukraine, the 42 retired Olympians and 291 other prominent Canadians and politicians were banned from entering Russia.

The G7 Leaders consist of Canada, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Following the G7 Summit, the IOC applauded their statement, saying it fully aligns with its position on the matter.

The Olympic officials recommended athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports should be able to compete as Individual Neutral Athletes. Furthermore, any athletes actively supporting the war or enlisted in either the Russian or Belarusian military cannot participate. The Individual Neutral Athletes must also meet all anti-doping requirements, as well.

“The IOC sincerely hopes that these countries will take this G7 statement into serious consideration so that international sport can once again live up to its mission to unite the world in peaceful competition,” said IOC president Thomas Bach, in a media release.

The IOC previously stated it would make a decision at an “appropriate time” on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

The Ukrainian government's stance has been that its athletes won't compete in qualifying Olympic events if athletes with a Russian passport are allowed to compete as well.

The Outlook reached out to the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) for a comment and will update the story with their response.

Previously, however, the COC stated its position has been supporting the ban of athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing in Paris 2024, and has been, while the invasion is ongoing.

Since the Ukraine invasion in February 2022, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been widely banned, even as neutrals, from competing at major international competitions such as the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) and International Biathlon Union (IBU).

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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