Vladimir Putin has plenty of rage to go around these days, it seems. Nearly two years into his Ukraine invasion, the Russian president is accusing the International Olympic Committee of racism. Here is the full story.
War Is No Game
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, the last thing on most people’s minds was how it might affect the sporting world.
Olympics in Peril
But with the war stretching toward its two-year anniversary, Vladimir Putin’s plan for world domination is on a collision course with the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.
Expanding Team Russia
Putin started laying the groundwork for his Olympic team in 2022 when the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) officially recognized regional sporting bodies from four territories it claims it “annexed” from Ukraine.
IOC Not Happy with Putin
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) didn’t take kindly to that classification and Russia’s attempt to sweep Ukraine athletes into their big red tent.
Russia Banned from Olympics
So in the third week of October, the IOC banned the Russian Olympic Committee. That follows a July decision to block Russia from competing as a nation in the 2024 summer games.
Individual Neutral Athletes
Under that earlier ruling, Russian athletes might still be able to compete, but only as “individual neutral athletes.”
Putin on the Attack
The dual sanctions, and especially the banning of the ROC, prompted Putin to go on the offensive later in October.
They’re Excluding the Best
Speaking at the “Russia – Sporting Power” conference in Perm, Putin accused the IOC of using politics to exclude the best athletes from Olympic participation.
Putin Cries Racism
Even worse, Putin said, the IOC’s actions against Russia amount to nothing less than racism.
Punishing Innocent Athletes
Putin claims that by targeting Russian athletes, the IOC is using the summer games “as an instrument of political pressure against people who have nothing to do with politics.” It’s ethnic discrimination, he says.
Doping from the Top
Putin has been battling IOC sanctions since at least 2014, when an investigation found that a government-sponsored doping program boosted Russian athletes in the Winter Olympics.
Russian officials, including Putin, denied those allegations, but the IOC still imposed similar sanctions to the ones on the table for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Running as Independents
In particular, Russian athletes who have been cleared of doping charges by the IOC have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2014, but only if they declare themselves to be independent of their home country.
Putin Not Too Bothered
Other than his accusations against the IOC, though, Putin seems pretty much unbothered by the ongoing flap around his athletes and the Olympics.
Not Backing Down
And Putin is not backing down that several Ukraine territories now “belong” to mother Russia.
Soccer, Not War
In fact, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko recently announced that Russia is sinking millions of dollars into a new soccer league with 10 teams from occupied Ukraine.
On Firm Ground
Chernyshenko says that they’re moving ahead with beefing up the sporting infrastructure in Ukraine and spawning the new league because they’re confident of where they stand in the international community.
Eye on 2028
That includes relations with the IOC, says Chernyshenko, who has his sights set firmly on 2028.
Duking It Out
“I’m confident that, by then, our athletes will be able to take part as a fully fledged team.”
Whether that team will involve current Ukraine territories seems destined to be settled on the battlefield rather than the playing field.
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