Protection, Voice, Press Releases, Belarus, Human Rights

Athleten Deutschland reiterates calls for complete exclusion of Russia and Belarus as long as war of aggression continues  

Berlin, 28 March 2023. In the light of today’s deliberations of the IOC Executive Board on the possible return of Russia and Belarus to world sport, Athletes Germany reiterates its position: As long as the war of aggression continues, we consider a complete exclusion of Russia and Belarus to be imperative. In the course of a so-called Global Call of the IOC with athletes’ representatives from all over the world last week, Léa Krüger, sabre fencer, underlined this position again.

The exclusion must apply to federations, officials, and unfortunately also to athletes. World sport must have its intrusion by Russian influence systematically and independently investigated. Detailed reasoning for our positions can be found in our positions from February 2023 and January 2023.

Internationally, we miss a differentiated assessment of the rights and protections of Ukrainian athletes on the one hand and Russian athletes on the other. The expert report commissioned by the DOSB has made an extremely important contribution. According to the report, a collective exclusion of Russian athletes is permissible and, despite unequal treatment, is not to be considered a violation of international prohibitions of discrimination. We welcome that the DOSB has addressed the issue of the reintegration of the Russian and Belarusian athletes with due diligence – also in exchange with athletes’ representatives.

We call on the IOC to uphold the recommendations on Russia’s exclusion from world sport and to vehemently demand their implementation by the world federations. The IOC must deal in detail with the expert report by Prof. Patricia Wiater and provide a detailed response. In contrast, we can hardly recognize such an in-depth human rights assessment in the communication of the UN Special Rapporteurs to the IOC.

From our point of view, the aggregation of opinions, as recently often used by the IOC, is hardly suitable to decide about the rights and protections of Ukrainian athletes and to answer the question of the admissibility of collective exclusions. We expect an unequivocal commitment from the federations and the IOC that anti-war protests and expressions of solidarity for Ukraine will be supported and protected at international competitions.

Germany’s stance must now be promoted proactively in an united manner – with like-minded allies – to the world of sport. In recent days, there have been several positive examples from the German federation landscape. In particular, the representatives of German federations in international consultations and committees must be held accountable.

We are extremely concerned that federations are not fulfilling their responsibility or that this responsibility is being shifted back and forth between the IOC and world federations, for example. The ones who would suffer – as is often the case – would be the athletes. They will then have to decide individually whether to participate in competitions with Russian and Belarusian participation, risking sanctions themselves and their chances of qualification for the Games, as well as the continuation of their funding and even their future membership in national teams.

The recent events in national and international fencing should remain an alarming negative example. The ignorance of the world federation has predictably forced the victims of the war of aggression to retreat, while the aggressor is courted on his way back to the stage of world sports. As a result, violations of rights and the need for protection of Ukrainian athletes have been pushed into the background. Athletes are left alone. There is chaos. We therefore gladly support the open letter of more than 300 fencers to the FIE and the IOC.

From our point of view, sport must finally find answers for dealing with states that seriously violate the values of sport, deliberately use sport as a political instrument, and break international law and human rights. Can a state that is waging a war of aggression against another nation be part of the Olympic movement that is committed to promoting peace? Unfortunately, we fail to see this overdue and honest discussion of red lines materialize, neither nationally nor internationally.