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World Athletics Council is Banning Russia From Competition in Response to Conflict in Ukraine

As the whole world watches war unfold in eastern Europe, athletics must contemplate its global reach.

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On Tuesday, the World Athletics Council, the governing body for the sport of athletics, announced it would sanction the Member Federations of Russia and Belarus, in response to the ongoing conflict and invasion of Ukraine.

Going into effect immediately, this means that all athletes, support personnel, and officials from Belarus and Russia will be barred from World Athletics events indefinitely.

World Athletics is acting in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began February 24. The United States and other allies were quick to respond with economic sanctions. The strategy has trickled down into many other sectors, including sports and entertainment, as a way of showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Belarus is also being lumped into these sanctions for allowing Russian forces to use the country as a staging ground for the invasion, according to UK foreign secretary Liz Truss.

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Whether they agree with their countries’ actions or not, Russian and Belarusian athletes will miss athletic opportunities now, though Russian athletes are no stranger to bigger sanctions in sport.

The Russian Athletics Federation has been under suspension since 2015 due to doping violations. However, Russian athletes have been allowed to compete as neutral athletes upon approval from the Doping Review Board. As part of that review, there were 10 Russian athletes in attendance at the Tokyo Olympic Games, four women and six men.

However, as part of this most recent sanction, a press release from World Athletics says “Russian athletes who have received [Authorized Neutral Athlete] status for 2022 are excluded from World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future.”

Those athletes previously eligible will be unable to compete in this weekend’s race walking team championships and the upcoming world indoor championships in Belgrade, Serbia, which is set for the weekend of March 18. As of now, they are also barred from the world athletics championships taking place in Eugene, Oregon, this July.

“We stand in solidarity with our fellow athletes, competitors, and friends from Ukraine who are facing far greater challenges than just disruptions to their training and competition, but are in fear of their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” said commission chair Renaud Lavillenie.

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