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Canadian Olympians push for opposition to Russians in Paris

A group of 42 retired Canadian Olympians has called on the Canadian Olympic Committee to deny the Russians the chance to compete in next year’s Paris Games unless Russia withdraws. Ukraine.

“We condemn the recent public statements issued by the COC supporting the ‘exploration of ways’ for the Russians and Belarusians to compete as ‘neutral’ at the 2024 Paris Olympics,” the Canadians wrote in a statement released Wednesday.

Opening that door, the athletes said, “sends a message that the COC is no longer concerned about Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

The statement was signed by Canadian Olympic greats and gold medalists, including Haley Wickenheiser (hockey), Jen Hale and Alex Bilodeau (freestyle skiing), Tessa Virtue (skating) and Becky Scott (cross-country skiing).

Russian and Belarusian athletes have largely been excluded from international competition since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February. The International Olympic Committee is seeking a way back for those athletes to compete without officially representing their countries, citing human rights experts who argue that athletes should not be discriminated against solely because of their passports.

“Rejecting their participation in international sport is not simply a matter of denying athletes the choice to compete because of a passport, it is a rejection of an illegal and inhumane war and a recognition of the role of international sport in geopolitics,” the Canadians wrote. .

The COC has taken a selective line on the position. Last month, Secretary-General David Shoemaker proposed forcing athletes from banned countries to speak out publicly against the war in order to gain the neutral status they must compete in.

Canadian governments were also among a group of 35 governments that released a statement last month saying that, without clarity on a workable neutrality model, “we do not agree to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition.”

Both the COC and governments have stopped short of declaring that the Russians should not be allowed.

In a statement, the Canadian Olympians said the Russians’ demand to oppose the war was “unfounded and out of touch.”

“For example, it is illegal in Russia to publicly condemn military operations abroad, and it is virtually impossible for top athletes to oppose war,” the statement said.

It also used instances in 2018 and 2021 when Russians could compete under the titles “Olympic Athletes from Russia” and “Russian Olympic Committee” rather than under their country’s flag due to doping sanctions as examples of how an “athlete separation from Russia”. the state is an impossible task.”

The letter also said the war broke out shortly after last year’s Beijing Winter Games, highlighted by a high-level meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping ahead of the opening ceremony.

“The Beijing 2022 Games helped set the stage and dictate the timing of the initial invasion, sports facilities in Ukraine were targeted by Russian attacks, and Russian athletes were promoted to high-ranking military positions and used in war propaganda.” it was said in the letter.

It concluded that “no avenue should be considered” for Russians or Belarusians to compete in Paris until Russia “completely withdraws from Ukraine”.

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