World Athletics has put itself on a potential collision course with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after banning Russia and Belarus athletes from elite competition.
The Russian federation had been suspended since 2015 after institutional doping violations and, while that sanction was lifted on Wednesday, athletes remain banned in response to the Ukraine war.
Ukraine pole vault legend Sergey Bubka is vice-president of World Athletics and, despite the IOC announcing a proposed pathway that would allow Russians to return under a neutral flag, they will remain barred from international athletics events.
They will also have no access to Olympic qualifying competitions, although that situation could still change subject to Russia and Belarus meeting a set of criteria that will be defined by a newly formed working group.
The World Athletics president, Sebastian Coe, said that there was “no ambiguity” about its right to decide on the participation of Russian athletes rather than the IOC in what is widely considered to be the blue riband sport of the Olympic Games.
“We determine eligibility and, for our World Championship events, for the foreseeable future, the exclusion remains,” he said.
Asked if Russia will need to leave Ukraine in order for its athletes to return to international competition, he said: “It remains my instinct.”
Coe also stressed there was an ongoing dialogue with the IOC, of which he is a member, and there will be a meeting of that executive board next week.
It all follows an escalation this month in the British government’s opposition to Russian athletes competing in next year’s Olympics. In a move that prompted the IOC to claim that governments deciding Olympic participation “would be the end of world sport as we know it”, Britain’s culture secretary Lucy Frazer directly called on leading sponsors to take action.
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky had told a summit of sports ministers last month that 228 Ukrainian athletes and coaches had died since the Russian invasion. The Ukrainian ministry of sport said 350 sports facilities have been destroyed, 40,000 athletes forced abroad and 140,000 of their most promising young athletes have been left without training facilities.
The Daily Telegraph in London