IOC calls for Russia sports ban, FIFA throws team out of World Cup

Head of Russia's Olympic Committee Stanislav Pozdnyakov has said the IOC's call for a sports ban would be unfair

Head of Russia's Olympic Committee Stanislav Pozdnyakov has said the IOC's call for a sports ban would be unfair Creator: Dimitar DILKOFF

The International Olympic Committee on Monday urged sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Just hours later, FIFA kicked Russia out of the 2022 World Cup as football's global governing body and UEFA joined forces to expel Russian national teams and clubs from all international competitions.

Russia were due to take part in World Cup play-offs this month, but plans to play on neutral territory were dismissed as "unacceptable" by their rivals Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

"Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine," FIFA and UEFA said in a statement.

Rugby's world governing body banned Russia and Belarus from all international rugby "until further notice" on Tuesday.

Russia's membership of World Rugby was also suspended indefinitely, meaning the country's slim hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup in France are over.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) on Monday also cancelled all sanctioned tournaments in Russia and Belarus, banned them from hosting future tournaments "until further notice" and ordered their flags and anthems banned from all BWF tournaments.

The IOC, meanwhile, said it faced a "dilemma which cannot be solved".

"While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country," it said in a statement.

"In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB (executive board) recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions."

If international federations follow the IOC's advice and football's action en masse, Russia would join the Yugoslavia of Slobodan Milosevic and South Africa under apartheid rule as major sporting pariahs.

The IOC also withdrew the Olympic Order, its highest award, from all high-ranking Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, said the IOC's recommendations "contradict" the Olympic charter and the "spirit of the Olympic movement".

"We strongly disagree with them," Pozdnyakov said in a statement.

The IOC said that if it is not possible for "organisational or legal reasons" to prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes competing, sports officials should do "everything in their power" to stop athletes from the two countries taking part under their country's flags.

It is a matter of particular urgency in relation to the Paralympic Winter Games, which begin Friday in Beijing.

The body "reiterated its full support for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the Games".

The IOC last week urged all international sports federations to cancel forthcoming events in Russia, angry at Moscow violating an "Olympic Truce" with its attack on Ukraine.

Prominent Russian sports stars have not been shy in voicing their disquiet over Putin's invasion.

Andrey Rublev, who won the Dubai ATP title on Saturday, veteran Russian football international Fedor Smolov, United States-based ice hockey great Alex Ovechkin and cyclist Pavel Sivakov, who rides for the Ineos team, have all expressed a desire for peace.

Several countries had already moved to bar Russian competitors from their territory.

On Monday, Ukrainian star Elina Svitolina became the first tennis player to say she will refuse to play Russian and Belarusian opponents. She was due to face Russia's Anastasia Potopova in the first round in Monterrey on Tuesday.

UEFA ended its contract with Russian state energy giant Gazprom with immediate effect. The deal was widely believed to be worth around 40 million euros ($45 million) a year.

European football's governing body last week stripped Saint Petersburg of hosting this season's Champions League final on May 28 at the Gazprom Arena, awarding it to Paris.

The International Ice Hockey Federation banned all Russian national teams and clubs from its events, while organisers of basketball's Euroleague and Eurocup competitions announced that Russian teams had been suspended.

The Formula One Russian Grand Prix scheduled for September 25 was cancelled last week.

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