By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) -The Russian Olympic Committee was banned with immediate effect on Thursday for recognising regional organisations from four territories annexed from Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee said.
The IOC added the ROC would not be eligible for any funding after it recognised earlier this month Olympic Councils from the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia but that it would not affect any Russian athletes competing as neutrals.
“The unilateral decision taken by the Russian Olympic Committee on 5 October 2023 to include, as its members, the regional sports organisations which are under the authority of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Ukraine (namely Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia) constitutes a breach of the Olympic Charter,” the IOC said in a statement.
“… it violates the territorial integrity of the NOC of Ukraine, as recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in accordance with the Olympic Charter.”
The IOC executive board is meeting in Mumbai ahead of the IOC session on Oct. 15-17.
Thursday’s ruling does not affect any decision on Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation at the Paris 2024 Olympics which the IOC will take at a later date.
“The suspension of the ROC does not affect the participation of independent athletes,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a press conference.
While Ukraine welcomed the move, the Russian Olympic Committee called it counter-productive.
“This is an important decision,” Andriy Yermak, Head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, said on the Telegram messaging app.
“We communicate with our partners that sports cannot be out of politics when a terrorist country commits genocide of Ukraine and uses athletes as propaganda.”
The ROC said it was a politically motivated decision.
“Today the IOC made another counterproductive decision with obvious political motivations,” the ROC said in a statement.
“This secures de jure what was done de facto back in February 2022,” it added, referring to the ban on Russian athletes issued by most international sports federations in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The IOC had not sanctioned the Russian or Belarusian Olympic Committee or Russian IOC members since Moscow’s 2022 invasion but did ban athletes from those countries in the first few months after what Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’.
In March, however, the IOC issued a first set of recommendations for international sports federations to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return, competing as individual athletes with no flag, emblem or anthem.
The IOC has said athletes should not be punished for actions of governments.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly and Karolos Grohmann; Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Yuliia Dysa in Gdansk; Writing by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)