Gymnasts from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to take part in sanctioned competitions as “individual neutral athletes” from the start of 2024, the sport’s governing body said Wednesday, but any decision on the Paris Games will be left to the International Olympic Committee.
Russian and Belarus gymnasts had been banned since last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ military support.
The executive committee of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said Wednesday it had decided “to authorize, under strict conditions, the participation of athletes and support personnel of Russian and Belarusian sporting nationality in FIG sanctioned events listed on the FIG Calendar as `individual neutral athletes’ without any involvement or association with the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus, their respective National Federations or National Olympic Committees.”
The federation also reiterated “its firm condemnation of the senseless invasion of Ukraine by Russia and its commitment to impose severe punishments on anyone in the international Gymnastics community who is involved in war or supports war.”
FIG president Morinari Watanabe’s says: “By accepting Russian and Belarusian gymnasts to participate in competitions as independent neutral athletes, the FIG is ensuring that the rights of all athletes are respected and is sending a message to the world that Gymnastics is seeking peace.”
The IOC has pushed sports governing bodies this year to approve some athletes from Russia and Belarus competing as neutrals for international competitions including Paris qualifying events.
Soccer and track and field have taken the toughest positions against Russia, excluding teams and athletes within days of the invasion of Ukraine starting in February 2022. Russia was removed from trying to qualify for the men’s and women’s World Cup in soccer.
Tennis and cycling mostly continued to let Russians and Belarusians compete as neutrals — but not in team events — without their national identity, and the IOC and its president Thomas Bach have pointed to their success.
Bach said Tuesday that the key factor in weighing the IOC’s ultimate decision on letting Russians participate in Paris is how well athletes behave in international competitions.