The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals in its events. This decision echoes the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendation from March.
During the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics – held prior to the Ukraine invasion – Russian athletes were given permission to participate under a neutral flag.
FIG’s president, Morinari Watanabe, previously suggested in April that Russian and Belarusian athletes not involved in the conflict should have the opportunity to participate in competitions. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, athletes from both countries faced a ban from many sports.
“The FIG is upholding the rights of all athletes and communicating globally that gymnastics is a sport striving for peace,” said Watanabe on Wednesday.
According to a statement from the FIG, its executive committee resolved to “approve the participation of athletes and supporting personnel” from Russia and Belarus in FIG events as “independent neutral athletes”. However, these individuals must have no connections or affiliations with the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus, including their respective national federations or Olympic committees.
The FIG stated it would enforce stringent neutrality rules concerning both the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. Athletes wishing to obtain “individual neutral athlete” status must submit an application to the FIG. Successful applicants will be eligible to participate in FIG events starting from 1 January 2024.
The FIG mentioned that such events “may incorporate Olympic qualification events for Paris 2024”, however, the final decision on the eligibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes for the subsequent year’s Games lies with the IOC.
The FIG emphasized its ongoing support for victims of the war and its commitment to ensuring all athletes, regardless of nationality, are treated without discrimination. It also reiterated its strong denunciation of Russia’s senseless invasion of Ukraine and pledged to impose severe sanctions on any member of the international gymnastics community involved or supportive of warfare.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Neutral Athlete Participation
What decision has the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) made regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes?
The FIG has decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutral participants in its events, provided they are not involved or associated with the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus, their respective national federations or Olympic committees.
Can Russian and Belarusian athletes now participate in any sporting events?
They are permitted to participate in events sanctioned by the FIG, but this decision doesn’t automatically extend to other sports or competitions. The athletes can compete as neutrals starting from 1 January 2024.
What was the IOC’s recommendation in this regard?
The IOC had recommended in March that Russian and Belarusian athletes be allowed to compete as neutrals. This was followed by the FIG’s decision.
How does the FIG plan to enforce neutrality?
The FIG has stated that it will impose strict neutrality requirements regarding the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. Athletes wishing to compete as neutrals must apply to the FIG and demonstrate no affiliation with either country’s governing bodies.
What is the FIG’s stance on the invasion of Ukraine?
The FIG has strongly condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and expressed its commitment to imposing severe penalties on anyone within the international gymnastics community who supports or is involved in warfare.