UK among over 30 nations still supporting ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes

The UK will continue to support an ongoing ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sporting events, including at next year’s Olympics, according to culture secretary Lucy Frazer.

The International Olympic Committee is – ahead of this week’s one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – exploring the possibility of athletes from Russia and Belarus competing in qualification events for Paris 2024 as neutrals.

But over 30 nations, including the UK, the United States, France and Germany, have pledged their ongoing support for the ban to stay in place while the war in Ukraine continues.

Frazer, who chaired a meeting earlier this month of ministers from countries united in wanting the ban to remain, believes the IOC’s plans are “not credible” and has urged the governing body to reconsider its position.

“We agree that (Russian president Vladimir) Putin cannot use sport to legitimise his actions on the world stage,” she said in a statement. “This coalition of nations has supported Ukraine on multiple fronts and we will continue to do so.

“Today we are setting out our serious concerns with the International Olympic Committee’s plans which could see a route back into elite athletics for Russia and Belarus.

“Any plans to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in Paris are not credible.

“With the prospect of tanks from the United Kingdom, United States and European partners arriving in Ukraine over the coming weeks, and (Ukrainian) president (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy expressing serious concerns that a spring offensive by Russia is imminent, we urge the IOC to reconsider its position.”

Ukraine’s sports minister has suggested his country could boycott next year’s Olympics if Russian athletes compete.