Dear Members of the International Olympic Committee,
We are writing to express our deep concern regarding the International Olympic Committee Session on October 15, 16, and 17 and the potential decisions to be taken in connection with the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals in the upcoming Paris Olympics. In our opinion, positive advice in this matter raises serious ethical and moral questions that cannot be ignored.
The International Paralympic Committee, in voting against maintaining the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes on 29 September, appears to have chosen a path that is contradictory to the principles of justice and accountability. At a time when Russia’s aggression on Ukraine has escalated and more than 250 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have been killed, the decision to reinstate the participation of athletes from these countries aligns the Committee with a stance that history will undoubtedly judge harshly.
The removal of flags, anthems, and national colours does little to mitigate the potential for these athletes to be used as propaganda tools by the Russian regime. We have seen in the past how any form of participation, no matter how seemingly neutral, can be manipulated to justify the actions of those responsible for the war and suffering in Ukraine. Russian athletes have on numerous occasions endorsed and tried to legitimise the actions of their government. The International Olympic Committee’s decision inadvertently provides a platform for such manipulation, further complicating the efforts to condemn Russia’s brutal actions.
Additionally, there is a legitimate concern regarding the integrity of Russian and Belarusian athletes who may have military affiliations or receive support, including financial support, from entities subject to sanctions. While it may be challenging to ascertain this information conclusively, it raises questions about the thoroughness of background checks and the Committee’s ability to ensure that these athletes have not expressed support for Russia’s brutal war.
As long as the Russian Federation continues its illegal and aggressive war against Ukraine, with the support of the Belarusian regime, it is imperative that the integrity of sports and the safety of all athletes be prioritised. The exclusion of athletes from both countries becomes a necessary step in upholding these principles.
We implore the International Olympic Committee to consider the above-mentioned arguments and take a stand that reflects a commitment to justice, integrity, and the well-being of the international sporting community. By maintaining a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, the Committee can send a clear message that it stands on the right side of history, aligned with the values of peace and human rights.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we hope that the International Olympic Committee will decide in light of the ethical considerations raised.
Ukrainian civil society organisations signatories:
- Promote Ukraine
- Barvinok VZW
- Vereniging van Oekraïense Vrouwen – Antwerpen
- FV Svitanok
- Ukrabel vzw