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Russian athletes will be collateral damage

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The push-back against Russia (and by proxy Belarus, which has also been banned) of athletes from around the world has accelerated at a remarkable pace. He felt, finally, that fragmented voices could be organized and directed to those who matter, instead of power brokers hearing whispers of fractured dissent from all corners.

Unsurprisingly, Ukrainians have been at the forefront of getting bodies such as the IOC and FIFA to take meaningful action, without buzzing about the virtues of political neutrality fearing damage to their already abundant hip pockets.

Few were convinced that either was capable of not tripping over their own results in the race to send a tedious statement about the healing power of sport. Yet here we are, a tipping point having been reached, with the IOC and FIFA making historic calls either banning Russian and Belarusian participation or telling its members not to invite them to compete.

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There was an IOC exit clause, which stated that organizers of impending events such as the Paralympics could choose to have these athletes compete under a neutral flag given the timing of the announcement. This is exactly what Russia has done in recent Games, Summer and Winter, with a decidedly lukewarm reception from other competitors, many of whom are rightly unconvinced of the merits of the Russian anti-doping references.

And while FIFA and UEFA have been firm in their decisions, it now falls to bodies such as the International Tennis Federation, which organizes Grand Slam tournaments and team events such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King, to show their hand.

Individual sports offer a more complex scenario than team events which sit firmly under the Olympic banner. Should tennis players who live outside of Russia, tour year-round, and are openly opposed to war be banned for the actions of Putin and his military?

The sad truth is that a more porous method, allowing athletes to compete on merit or hand-picked for certain events or tournaments, has been tried and failed miserably. The IOC’s feather duster approach after the Sochi doping scandal, where Russian athletes simply continued to compete with immense success, caused them great embarrassment in Beijing as the doping scandal surrounding ice skater Kamila Valieva , 15, made headlines.

With the world’s two most influential sports bodies now setting the marker, it is up to others to allow Russian athletes and teams to compete or risk boycotts and backlash from those who refused to compete against them. .

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