Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been invited to compete at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China this year despite both countries’ ongoing isolation from several major international sporting events, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has said.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday that a pathway is being “further explored” which could establish a framework for the return of Russian and Belarusian competitors to Olympic competition, provided that certain criteria are met.
These include strict adherence to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, while athletes who profess vocal support for the military operation in Ukraine would also be disqualified.
The IOC also indicated in its Wednesday statement that it welcomed an offer from the Olympic Council of Asia to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in its Olympic qualification events.
“The OCA joins the Olympic movement in its support of the IOC Executive Board’s statement on solidarity with Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and Belarus, and the status of athletes from these countries,” the OCA said on Thursday in response to the IOC statement.
“The OCA believes in the unifying power of sport and that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions. The OCA has offered to give eligible Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to take part in competitions in Asia, including the Asian Games.
“The OCA remains on standby as the IOC continues to explore with International Federations the pathway for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions.”
The invitation comes in spite of Ukrainian requests to prohibit the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from Olympic competition. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said earlier this week in a telephone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that Russians have “no place” at the Paris Olympics next year.
Russia, as well as Belarus, has been largely absent from international sports over the past eleven months following sanctions imposed by the IOC which were subsequently adhered to by several other global sporting federations.
However, more recently IOC President Thomas Bach said that, while he believes sanctions should continue against the governments of Russia and Belarus, the Olympic Charter dictates that it should “respect the rights of all athletes to be treated without discrimination.”
The Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23 to October 8.