Biathlon chiefs issue decision on Russian and Belarusian athletes

Biathlon chiefs issue decision on Russian and Belarusian athletes

Athletes from the two countries will have to compete under a neutral banner, among other sanctions

Russian and Belarusian competitors will compete as neutral athletes and be outlawed from scoring points at events, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) has ruled following an Executive Board meeting which “strongly condemned” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Under sanctions similar to the punishments placed on Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2019, the IBU will replace flags, symbols and national emblems from the two countries with the organization’s flag at venues, order team clothing to be in netural colors, ban the playing of the nation’s anthems and prevent the neutral athletes from scoring Nation Cup or Relay Score points.

The move means the IBU joins a growing list of sporting organization taking action against Russia over its military operation, including European football administrative body UEFA, which has moved the Champions League final in May from St. Petersburg to Paris and ordered home matches involving Russian national and club football teams to be played at a neutral venue.

The union said it was in “continuous dialogue” and was offering support to members of the biathlon community in Ukraine during what it described as an “international crisis.”

The IBU will not allow representation of Russia & Belarus at its remaining World Cup & IBU Cup events. However, the IBU will invite individual athletes from these nations to compete as neutral athletes. The measures include but are not limited to:@IBU_WC | @IBU_Cup | @iocmedia

— International Biathlon Union (@biathlonworld) February 26, 2022The Ukrainian biathlon team has told the IBU that it will not participate in any of the remaining competitions in the World Cup or the IBU Cup this season, but the Ukrainian flag will still be raised at events run by the governing body, which has pledged to support Ukrainian athletes “financially, logistically and from a technical sports perspective” when they compete again.

No Russian athletes will compete at the current Youth and Junior World Championships in the US, where the Russian flag and anthem will also not be displayed.

The statement said that the Estonian government has barred Russian and Belarusian athletes from taking part in a World Cup event in March but added that its decision will not cause the cancelation of the competition.

“The same would apply if the Norwegian and Finnish hosts – for the World Cups – or Swiss and Italian hosts for [the] IBU Cups would implement similar restrictions,” it said.

Competitors from the countries will be allowed to enter Finland and Norway for events in March “as of now”, the IBU added.

The IBU said it hoped for an “immediate” end to the invasion and the return of Ukrainian athletes next season, emphasizing that it was speaking “especially [of] those who have been drafted to the military.”

The International Ski Federation announced on Friday that Russia will not host any more of its events this winter.

The International Olympic Committee has also urged sports federations to cancel or move events scheduled for Russia and Belarus and to stop using the countries’ flags and national anthems.

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