Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics as independent Olympians, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday, despite a call from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to exclude them entirely.
Russian and Belarusian athletes would be allowed to participate if they do not represent their country or an organization affiliated with their country, the IOC said, though any athlete who actively supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would not be able to compete.
Allowing athletes from both countries is part of a larger “unifying mission of the Olympic Movement,” the IOC said, adding it would continue to support Ukrainian athletes.
This follows a previous recommendation by the IOC to prohibit all Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competition because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Zelensky, who said he met with IOC president Thomas Bach last month, argued “one cannot try to be neutral when the foundations of peaceful life are being destroyed and universal human values are being ignored.”
The IOC noted its recommendation to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes mirrors a similar decision in 1992, when it allowed athletes from the former Yugoslavia—which faced sanctions by the United Nations—to participate as independent Olympic participants at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The Russian Olympic Committee has faced several sanctions in the last decade following a doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of a state-sponsored doping program involving Russian athletes. The agency later confirmed a whistleblower report that Russian-based laboratories had manipulated doping test results. Because of this, Russian athletes were not allowed to compete under a Russian flag and have competed under the moniker ROC and an Olympic flag at all international competitions since 2016. Russia was also banned from participating in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. Sanctions prohibiting athletes from participating under the Russian flag were set to expire in December 2022, though WADA has not said whether they would reinstate Russia, according to Reuters. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the IOC said it “strongly condemns” Russia’s breach of the Olympic Truce, a UN-supported resolution that prohibits all warfare during and a week after competition.