Barring Russians from the Olympic Games and other international sports events undermines the very idea of a fair competition, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico has said. He made his comments after Russian athletes have been excluded from multiple major tournaments as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.
“I would never mix politics and sport. Why are we harming ourselves by doing this?” Fico told Slovakian daily Pravda on Friday.
“Imagine that you have a sport, where the absolute leaders are from Russia and Belarus. You bar them from the competition, and someone who would have otherwise had a minimal probability of winning goes on and wins. What’s the value of that gold medal then?”
“Never in my life would I stop athletes from competing. Let them show that they have all it takes to win,” the prime minister said.
In December, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) barred Russia from sending a unified team to the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, citing its ongoing armed conflict with Ukraine. Athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus can still participate, but as “Individual Neutral Athletes.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba called the decision to allow any athletes from Russia to compete “shameful,” arguing that “the Kremlin will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda warfare.”
Russian Minister of Sport Oleg Matytsin blasted the move as “completely discriminatory.”
He argued that the IOC’s treatment of Russia “goes against the basic Olympic principles.” He did not rule out, however, that individual Russian athletes will compete in the games.
The IOC banned Russians from competing under the national flag in 2017 because of several doping scandals. The Russian team has since participated either as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” (OAR) or under the designation “Russian Olympic Committee” (ROC).
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