(CNSNews.com) – Calls by 35 leading democracies for Russia and Belarus to be barred from all international sports because of the invasion of Ukraine brought a stinging response Wednesday from the Russian Embassy in D.C., which accused the U.S. “and its satellites” of pursuing “a ridiculous campaign to ‘cancel’ Russia.”
The embassy charged that the Ukraine war was merely a pretext for a pre-existing campaign of “persecution of Russian athletes” – likely a reference among other things to doping scandals that have prevented Russian Olympic athletes from competing under their national flag in recent years.
Labeling the move a “Russophobic attack,” the embassy said in a social media posting that attempts to freeze Russia out of sporting events were based on “the far-fetched pretext of Russia allegedly violating international obligations and breaching human rights in the context of the special military operation in Ukraine.”
“[I]t is obvious that Ukraine is just an excuse. The persecution of Russian athletes began long before the current events,” it said. “This is part of a ridiculous campaign to ‘cancel’ Russia.”
“The actions of the ‘collective West’ are another example of unfair competition in order to deprive Russian athletes of the opportunity to compete on equal terms with rivals from other countries.”
From soccer to athletics, and tennis to motorsport, associations regulating numerous sports have already barred Russia – and in some cases also Belarus, a close ally of Moscow and facilitator of its invasion – from participation.
Many of the decisions followed a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee, just days after the invasion of Ukraine began, that all international sports federations and event organizers “not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.”
Particularly galling for many Russians was the fact the invasion cost their country the opportunity to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar late this year, the world’s most widely viewed sporting event. Soccer is among the country’s best-loved sports.
This week the U.S. and 34 other governments in a joint statement welcomed steps already taken and called on all international bodies to suspend Russia and Belarus national sports federations.
They said individuals closely aligned to the Russian and Belarusian states “should be removed from positions of influence on international sport federations,” and sports bodies should “consider suspending the broadcasting of sports competitions into Russia and Belarus.”
The signatories said that where sports associations do allow Russian or Belarusian sportspeople to participate, they should not be allowed to represent their states, and the two countries’ national flags, emblems, and anthems should be prohibited.
All of the recommended restrictions, they said, “should be in place until cooperation under the rules-based international order has become possible again.”
In addition to the United States, the countries making the call were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, and Sweden.
“Sport should remain out of politics,” the Russian Embassy said. “Using it as an instrument to exert pressure and settle scores directly violates the basic principles of the Olympic movement and is contrary to the spirit of competitiveness as well as healthy competition.”
The Russian Olympic Committee this week reiterated its view that sports should “stay out of politics,” and declared that “athletes cannot be used as hostages in the interests of achieving the goals of various geopolitical forces.”
In the same statement, the ROC accused Ukraine of committing “genocide” in Donbass, echoing one of the Kremlin’s unsubstantiated stated reasons for launching its “special military operation” in February.
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