Russia Banned From FIFA World Cup, Paralympics, and More

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent ripples through the sports world, with athletes from Russia and beyond denouncing the attacks ordered by Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Earlier this week, Russian athletes and teams saw the first official bans handed down from some of the biggest global sports organizations in the world, including FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, and UEFA, which runs the sport in Europe. Both organizations are banning Russian teams on the club and national level from all competitions “until further notice,” FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement on Feb. 28.

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” the statement read. “Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”

This move effectively eliminates the Russian men’s national team from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. Russia was scheduled to play in a finaling round against Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, and soccer officials from all three countries and others pressed FIFA to enact the ban. US Soccer also released a statement of solidarity with Ukraine, stating that US teams would not “tarnish our global game, nor dishonor Ukraine, by taking the same field as Russia, no matter the level of competition or circumstance, until freedom and peace have been restored.”

FIFA and UEFA’s ban came soon after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes be banned from international sporting events. “The Olympic Movement is united in its mission to contribute to peace through sport and to unite the world in peaceful competition beyond all political disputes,” a statement from the IOC’s board said. But the war in the Ukraine “puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma,” the IOC continued. “While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.” (The IOC included Belarus in its statement for its “support” of Russia’s attacks.)

The IOC has also been criticized by Russia for violating the Olympic Truce, which runs from the week before the start of the Olympic Games to a week after the end of the Paralympic Games. The Truce is intended to promote peace through sport while allowing safe passage for athletes traveling to and from the Games.

Amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukrainian cities, and Belarus’s supporting role in the attacks, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced on March 2 that Russian and Belarusian athletes would compete at the Beijing Paralympics starting March 4 as “neutrals,” meaning they’d compete under the Paralympic flag and wouldn’t be included in the medal table. However, the following day, the IPC announced that it will now deny Russian and Belarusian athlete participation at the Paralympic Games in response to multiple teams telling the IPC they would not compete if said athletes were allowed to participate.

“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement. “To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce. You are victims of your governments’ actions.” The IPC announced in the initial statement on March 2 that no events would be held in Russia or Belarus until further notice.

Governing bodies across sports took action following the IOC’s recommended ban. The International Skating Union came forward saying it will bar Russia and Belarus from competition — this notably impacts the world championships in figure skating and speed skating this month. The International Volleyball Federation said it will move the men’s world championship this fall from Russia to another host country, and the federation also suspended Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at its events.

More governing bodies barring the two nations include the International Ski Federation, World Athletics, International Ice Hockey Federation, and International Tennis Federation. The latter said Russia and Belarus were suspended from all 2022 ITF international team competitions, though individual players can still compete in other international events, just not under their respective flags or country names. The list of sports imposing some form of sanction continues to grow.

— Additional reporting by Sam Brodsky

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