Ukraine war will further alienate Russian athletes, sports

Europe and the world are living in the darkest hours since World War II, says Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros.

The Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) global chief executive officer, weighing in on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, added that the world is already struggling with several crises, including health, and an ailing global economy.

“Do we need a war and the threat of apocalypse hanging over our heads? Insane!” exclaimed de Medeiros.

Multiple sanctions were imposed on Russia just as its troops started invading Ukraine. Several sports organisations also voiced their concerns and views regarding the conflict.

Tournaments in Russia and Belarus sanctioned by Badminton World Federation had been cancelled following the Ukraine crisis. The world body, in a statement yesterday, said no other BWF tournaments will be allocated to Russia or Belarus until further notice.

It also said the Russian and Belarusian national anthems will not be played at any BWF tournaments.

The International Judo Federation, on Sunday, suspended Russian President Vladimir Putin as its honorary president and ambassador.

Sweden and Poland declared that they would not play Russia in the Fifa World Cup playoff matches. The Swedish government said it wanted all European Union sports entities to impose a sporting ban against Russia.

Fifa, receiving backlash for not expelling Russia from the playoffs, said the team could compete as the Russia Football Union (RFU).

This is similar to Russian athletes competing in the Summer and Winter Olympics – under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Russia was initially slapped with a four-year ban by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2019 for its state-sponsored doping programme, but this was later reduced to two years. The consequences of the ban – none of its athletes can represent the country at the Olympics, Paralympics or World Championships between Dec 17, 2020, and Dec 17, 2022.

Having been embroiled in a doping saga and with its athletes hit by the disruption in the sporting calendar no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, athletes in Russia are at their lowest ever – as they are now alienated by almost every nation on earth.

“I doubt they (the sanctions) will kill sports (in Russia), but they will certainly damage it,” said James M. Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, and an award-winning journalist.

“Russia now risks expulsion from this year’s World Cup.”

Dorsey agreed that the various bans on Russian athletes, in addition to the pandemic that crippled sports worldwide over the past two years, would affect their performance.

When asked if the notion that sports is beyond politics was a mere fairytale, or if this episode showcased the power of sports, Dorsey said: “I would say both.”

Even Russian athletes had made it clear that they were opposed to the war.

Dynamo Moscow striker Fedor Smolov was the first high-profile Russian footballer to speak out against the crisis. Other well-known names who declared ‘No War’, included ice hockey players Nikita Zadorov, and Alex Ovechkin.

Yet, this will do little to change the minds of international sporting bodies who would insist that these athletes took part in events under a neutral flag, or that of their respective sports organisations – and not under the colours of their birth nation.

This will leave Russian athletes wondering about their future, moving forward, in representing their nation.

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