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October 21, 2023 10:25 AM IST

IOC rejects Putin’s ‘ethnic discrimination’ accusation over Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday, October 20, rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s accusation that it is using the Olympic Games as a tool of politics and racism.

Putin lashed out on Thursday, October 19, saying the IOC had effectively suspended Russia from the Olympic movement.

“… we learned that an invitation to the Games is not an unconditional right of the best athletes but a kind of privilege and can be earned not by sporting results but by political gestures that have nothing to do with sport at all,” President Putin told a conference in the Urals city of Perm.

“And that the Games themselves can be used as an instrument of political pressure against people who have nothing to do with politics. And as gross, and in fact racist, ethnic discrimination.”

However, the IOC said in response, “Participation in the Olympic Games is by no means a human right and the recent amendment of the Olympic Charter is not related to it…

“We firmly reject the accusations being made that these measures are an ‘ethnic discrimination’.”

Russia has been at odds with the IOC since its own Sochi Winter Games in 2014, where its athletes were found to have benefited for years from a large-scale state-sponsored doping programme – something Moscow denied.

As a result, since 2018, Russians considered to be doping-free have been allowed to compete at the Olympics only under neutral flags. The IOC did not say last week whether they would be admitted to the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, using Belarus as a staging ground for what it called a “special military operation”, has triggered more sporting sanctions, including exclusion from international soccer.

In March, the IOC issued a first set of recommendations for international sports federations to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return, competing as individual athletes with no flag, emblem or anthem.

The IOC added on Friday, “The strict conditions the IOC has defined in its recommendations to the International Federations for the participation of individual neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions are compliant with the Olympic Charter.

“They are a reaction to the breach of the Olympic Charter by the Russian and Belarusian governments.

The IOC has said that athletes should not be punished for actions of governments. Last week the IOC banned the Russian Olympic Committee for recognizing regional bodies from four territories that Moscow claims to have annexed from Ukraine.

(Input from Reuters)

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