Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland have condemned efforts by the International Olympic Committee to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes back into international competition after banning them when Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago.
In a joint statement Thursday, the sports of ministers of the four nations accused the IOC of precipitating special exemptions to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in “international sports competitions including the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, allowing sport to be used to legitimize and distract attention from Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.”
“Efforts to return Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports competitions under the veil of neutrality legitimize political decisions and widespread propaganda of these countries also through the use of sport as a distraction from the illegal aggression against Ukraine,” it added.
The ministers are calling on international sporting bodies to follow their lead. “We highly appreciate all international sport organizations and federations that have removed athletes and representatives of Russia and Belarus from international competitions and organizations and we urge them not to change their position until Russia and Belarus stop their aggression against Ukraine.”
UN experts however have commended the IOC for considering allowing individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in international sports competitions as “neutral athletes.”
“We urge the IOC to adopt a decision in that direction, and to go further, ensuring the non-discrimination of any athlete on the basis of their nationality,” the office of the high commission of Human Rights said in a statement.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US administration does not object to allowing athletes from Russia or Belarus from taking part in the 2024 Summer Games and 2026 Winter Games — as long as it is "absolutely clear" that they are not representing their home countries,
She reiterated that current sanctions against Russia and Belarus must remain in place.