No More Bubbly – Putin Stripped Of Olympic Order As IOC Bosses Tell Feds To ‘Ban All Russian Athletes & Officials’

2022-02-28 Reading Time: 9 minutes
The Champagne Dries Up: IOC president Thomas Bach raises a glass with Vladimir Putin but now, the Russian dictator is persona non grata

The International Olympic Committee has stripped Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia who ordered the invasion of Ukraine, and other top-ranking Russian officials of the Olympic Order and recommended to international federations that they ban all Russian and Belarussian athletes and officials from all events this year.

In a strong statement that met some but not all the demands of Ukraine athletes and others and leaves little wriggle room on some levels but raises legal questions on others, the IOC notes:

  1. The IOC EB has, based on the exceptional circumstances of the situation and considering the extremely grave violation of the Olympic Truce and other violations of the Olympic Charter by the Russian government in the past, taken the ad hoc decision to withdraw the Olympic Order from all persons who currently have an important function in the government of the Russian Federation or other government-related high-ranking position, including the following:
    1. Mr Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation (Gold, 2001)
    2. Mr Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (Gold, 2014)
    3. Mr Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office (Gold, 2014)

That action and accompanying recommendations of the IOC send a clear signal to federations such as FINA, the global aquatics regulator that granted Putin its highest honour, the FINA Order, in 2014: the Russian dictator who launched the attack on Ukraine last Thursday, is persona non-grata and, in disgrace, deserves no honours in a realm of sport that has an Olympic Charter that commits it to political neutrality.

SOS called for Putin to be stripped of the FINA Order last Saturday.

Ukraine Athletes remain angry with the IOC despite its statement. “Officials” may be interpreted to mean the likes of Olympic and federation folk however, as Global Athlete notes, the IOC statement failed to impose a specific suspension on the National Olympic Committees of Russia and Belarus.

It was not only the IOC that avoided spelling out any specific ban on National Olympic Committees. Britain and Germany did so, too, in their own statements that followed the IOC’s latest announcement. The British Olympic Association (BOA), joined by the German OC, the DOSB, stated:

Red warning on the water – image by Patrick B. Kraemer

The British Olympic Association, together with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Germany, demands the immediate exclusion of Russia and Belarus from the international sports family until further notice. We call on the international sports federations to ban athletes representing Russia and Belarus from competitions for the time being and to suspend Russian and Belarusian officials from their positions. We stand united with the people, athletes and the Olympic family of Ukraine, following this unacceptable and unwarranted declaration of war against them.

The matter of banning all athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus is trickier than removing honours. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is said to be on the verge of issuing a suspension on all Russians and Belarussians ahead of the Beijing Winter Paralympics this month but the Court off Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has a record of siding with Russians locked out of Olympic competition by whole-nation bans even if they had clean personal records.

This time, the CAS may find itself in a position of issuing fair judgement but being perceived to side with a soft approach to sanctions against what is widely viewed as intolerable. It remains to be seen if the IOC’s use of the term “not invite” Russia and Belarus to events has any merit or difference in law to “not allow to participate”, though experts have already suggested that there is no provision in current rules likely to withstand a challenge by clean athletes who take their case(s) to the CAS.

The sports court might take into account the reasons for a whole-nation ban, namely an illegal invasion and acts of war that could end up in The International Criminal Court in The Hague. The matter will come down to whether there is provision in current sports rules to issue a no-compromise, no-loopholes judgment on a whole nation. IF there is a challenge and CAS sides with athletes form Russia and Belarus, two questions would remain:

  1. Would many other countries simply decide to boycott or refuse to compete alongside Russians and Belarussians?
  2. How soon would Olympic federations, including g the IOC, sit in emergency session to vote in new rules that would give the CAS reasons to judge a genuine, no-compromise whole-nation ban fair and legal?

FINA’s Options

FINA’s new director is Brent Nowicki, an American lawyer and former counsel for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). As FINA makes its next move in a rapidly changing Olympic sports world, he will have legal knowledge on his side. He is also at the helm of a cultural shift.

FINA is in the midst of a reform process that has already seen a 180-degree turn on the failed governance of its past, including the stripping of a FINA Silver Pin from Dr. Lothar Kipke, the GDR medical man convicted of harming minors by administering steroids and other banned substances to swimmers in the days of East German’s State Research Plan 14:25.

That action came off the back of decades of campaigning by this author. Now, our objection to Putin receiving the highest FINA honour on the cusp of the worst systematic doping crisis in sport since the ends of the days of the GDR and the start of the 1990s China Crisis, may yet be heeded.

That notion of political neutrality, the key to autonomy for Olympic sport, has often been a farce in the past half a century but today IOC bosses declared that there should be no Russian or Belarus athletes or officials at any international competitions run by the likes of FINA and its member organisations in turn if the global aquatics regulator adopts the IOC recommendations and hands them down to its own affiliates.

The declaration would extend to Russia’s top man in swimming Vladimir Salnikov and the likes of double Olympic backstroke champion Evgeny Rylov. That level of suspension could well end up before the CAS, as it did in 2016 when Russian swimmers were banned from the Rio Olympic Games and then reinstated.

The IOC has been heavily criticised in the past decade for its watered-down response to the Russian doping scandal, in so far as two whole-nation suspensions did not prevent most Russian athletes from continuing to compete in major international events, including the Olympic Games of 2016 and 2020ne.

Now, however, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and acts of war that including the murder of civilians, among them kindergarten children, the IOC’s executive board has issued a statement in which its top recommendations to international sports federations such as FINA and World Athletics are as follows:

The Olympic Flag, courtesy of the IOC

In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.

Wherever this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC EB strongly urges International Sports Federations and organisers of sports events worldwide to do everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus. Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be ccepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams.

No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed.Wherever, in very extreme circumstances, even this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC EB leaves it to the relevant organisation to find its own way to effectively address the dilemma described above.

The International Olympic Committee Executive Board

While Olympic loopholes were closed with more vigour than usual, the IOC did leave some wriggle room for federations to water down its toughest recommendations. Olympic bosses suggested that organisers of tournaments taking place imminently could take different decisions. This included the much-criticised approach adopted by Fifa on Sunday with regards to Russia’s World Cup play-offs, a position that looks set to change any time after several nations made clear that they would not, under any circumstances, be playing against Russia.

The IOC statement notes: “Wherever this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC EB strongly urges international sports federations and organisers of sports events worldwide to do everything in their power to ensure that … Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed.”

The IOC statement coincided with a stark statement from the Ukrainian automotive association, which urged the formula 1 bosses at FIA to ban all Russian drivers and teams from competing under its banner, including the F1 driver Nikita Mazepin. There were also calls from the Ukrainian Tennis Federation to ban all athletes and officials from grand slams and ITF tournaments on a day when Russia’s Daniil Medvedev took over the men’s world No 1 slot in tennis from Novak Djokovic.

In a letter seen by Reuters, the Ukrainian federation described the actions of Russia and Belarus in Ukraine over the past four days as “unprecedented, cynical and bloody”.

“Civilians are dying, including women and children; civilian infrastructure is collapsing … This is a full-scale war that will push our country back decades,” the letter said, adding that the goal of Russia’s invasion was “extermination.”

“Russia and Belarus do not have the right not only to hold international competitions on their territory, but also to participate in all ITF team and individual tournaments abroad,” the letter continued.

The IOC Statement On Putin, Russia and fellow aggressor Belarus – In Full

The Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) discussed again today the dilemma the Olympic Movement is currently facing after the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian government and the government of Belarus through its support in this.

The Olympic Movement is united in its mission to contribute to peace through sport and to unite the world in peaceful competition beyond all political disputes. The Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cups and many other sports events unite athletes of countries which are in confrontation and sometimes even war.

At the same time, the Olympic Movement is united in its sense of fairness not to punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them. We are committed to fair competitions for everybody without any discrimination.

The current war in Ukraine, however, puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma. While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.

This is a dilemma which cannot be solved. The IOC EB has therefore today carefully considered the situation and, with a heavy heart, issued the following resolution:

  1. In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.
  2. Wherever this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC EB strongly urges International Sports Federations and organisers of sports events worldwide to do everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus. Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be ccepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed. Wherever, in very extreme circumstances, even this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC EB leaves it to the relevant organisation to find its own way to effectively address the dilemma described above. In this context, the IOC EB considered in particular the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and reiterated its full support for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the Games.
  3. The IOC EB maintains its urgent recommendation not to organise any sports event in Russia or Belarus, issued on 25 February 2022.
  4. The IOC EB has, based on the exceptional circumstances of the situation and considering the extremely grave violation of the Olympic Truce and other violations of the Olympic Charter by the Russian government in the past, taken the ad hoc decision to withdraw the Olympic Order from all persons who currently have an important function in the government of the Russian Federation or other government-related high-ranking position, including the following:
    1. Mr Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation (Gold, 2001)
    2. Mr Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (Gold, 2014)
    3. Mr Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office (Gold, 2014)
  5. The IOC EB welcomes and appreciates the many calls for peace by athletes, sports officials and members of the worldwide Olympic Community. The IOC admires and supports in particular the calls for peace by Russian athletes.
  6. The IOC EB reaffirms its full solidarity with the Ukrainian Olympic Community. They are in our hearts and thoughts. The IOC EB commits to continue and strengthen its efforts for humanitarian assistance. Therefore, the IOC EB has today established a solidarity fund. In this context, the IOC expresses its gratitude to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Sports Federations that are already supporting Ukrainian athletes and their families.

The IOC EB, assisted by the IOC Task Force, continues to closely monitor the situation. It may adapt its recommendations and measures according to future developments.

Today’s IOC statement builds on the IOC statements made on 24 February 2022 and 25 February 2022.

The IOC reaffirms the call of the IOC President: “Give peace a chance.”

End of statement

Related SOS Coverage

Ukraine Athletes Call On IOC To Ban All Athletes & Olympic/Paralympic Committees Of Russia/Belarus

Kazan Stripped Of World Championships As FINA Responds To Ukraine Invasion & Pressure From Swim Feds

Ukraine Swimming Federation Calls On FINA To Suspend Russia / Belarus & Cancel All Events

Nordic Swimming Feds Call On FINA To ‘Immediately Suspend Russia & Belarus’ Pending Peace In Ukraine

Red Card For Russia Is The Only Moral & Ethical Response From Sport To Putin Power

IOC Urges FINA & Other International Federations To Cancel All Events In Russia Or Belarus; LEN Scraps Russian Competitions

FINA Cancels Two Events But Leaves World Championships, Junior & Senior, “Under Close Review” As Putin’s Murderous Attack On Ukraine & Its Sovereignty Continues

Blood In The Water & Why Sports Leaders Cannot Allow Warmongers To Use Sport As A Bargaining Chip In Their Olympic Power Games

Putin Putsch: FINA Must Cancel All Events In Russia To Guarantee Athlete Safety As No1 On 4-Point Priority Plan To Honour Olympic Charter “Neutrality” Key To Autonomy

The Red Lines Between Beijing 2008, 2022, Olympic Governance, Games Investors & Athletes Demanding Cultural Revolution

Share this post