Why Russian athletes shouldn’t be allowed to compete at Olympics

Why Russian athletes shouldn’t be allowed to compete at Olympics

On January 26, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated it would consider admitting Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions.

The idea of having Russian athletes back at the Olympics in Paris under a neutral flag has caused a wave of criticism both in Ukraine and worldwide.

Why the silencing of their attitude or neutral position on the Russian aggression in Ukraine on the part of athletes from Russia and the Republic of Belarus cannot be an excuse for their participation in international competitions, explains the Center for Strategic Communication.

First of all, this is because the neutral Olympic flag does not prevent Russia from using international sports for political purposes. After all, the so-called false flag operations are already a familiar expansion strategy for the Kremlin.

The vast majority of Russian Olympians are at the same time officers with the armed forces and law enforcement agencies of the aggressor state. They are members of the Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA) or the Dynamo sports society, among the founders of which are the Federal Security Service, Russian Guard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and other law enforcement bodies. Let us remind you that they are directly involved in the ongoing act of aggression against Ukraine on a par with the military.

For example, at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in the year of the full-scale invasion, Russian athletes won 32 medals. Among them are servicemen from CSKA, who won 14 medals, and the same number was gained by their fellow athletes from Dynamo. In total, 88% of all awards at the Beijing Olympics 2022 were won by athletes representing forces fighting in Ukraine.

At the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, army athletes won 45 medals out of 71 sealed by Russia, which is 63%. The Dynamo Society reported on 29 medals. In total, CSKA and Dynamo took all of the Russian team’s medals.

The most important thing to understand for the International Olympic Committee: in Russia, there are practically no Olympic athletes who would not be firmly embedded in the military machine of the Russian regime. Even coaches and instructors hold military ranks.

On August 29, 2016, Olympic champion Isinbayeva took part in a propaganda campaign — a sports exercise for the Russian military in Syria. “Everything here is steeped in such patriotism, such pride, courage, bravery…,” said today’s member of the IOC from Russia.

The propaganda campaign was run at a time when the Russian army was razing Aleppo to the ground, killing its inhabitants. Already in September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian Assad regime and Russia of war crimes — the use of incendiary and bunker bombs against residential areas of Aleppo.

The Olympic Charter declares that its activities are based on “general basic ethical principles.” “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” It is obvious that Russian policy does not comply with any of these Olympic principles.  

The fact that Russian athletes are officially army officers or hold positions in other law enforcement agencies once again reminds us that Putin’s regime is a continuation of the totalitarian USSR, with its militarization and control over all spheres of life. Modern Russia rehabilitates Stalinism, unleashes wars, systematically and brazenly lying and manipulating for decades, for example, shamefully swapping doping tests at the Olympics in Sochi.

Dictatorial regimes often employ sport to demonstrate their superiority and attractiveness, and therefore to legitimize themselves in the eyes of both their own citizens and hostile democracies. The international community cannot afford the frivolity of failing to respond to the fact that sport is becoming a tool to justify the Kremlin’s wars.

The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competitions amid ongoing aggression would send a wrong signal to Russian militarists and other authoritarian regimes — do whatever you want, you will get away with it anyway.

Russian politicians and media are intimidating the world with nuclear war and claiming they are fighting a “Satanic regime.” Nevertheless, they are willing to take part in the Olympics. Their participation in the competition legalizes the war in Ukraine and Russian propaganda rhetoric — “they do business with us and respect us.”

Let us remind you that the resolution of the European Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Russia’s victories at the Olympics serve to support the Kremlin’s terrorist activities. 

Meanwhile, “[t]he European Parliament calls for diplomatic relations with Russia to be reduced further and for contacts with its official representatives at all levels to be kept to the absolute minimum necessary; calls on EU Member States to close and ban Russian state-affiliated institutions, such as the Russian Centres for Science and Culture…” states the Resolution. 

Putin’s regime forbids Russians to protest against the war. Under the new legislation, even the call “no to war!” could be interpreted as a criminal offense as the one discrediting the Russian army. Thus, every Olympic winner, upon returning to Russia, will automatically become at least a silent accomplice to the crimes of the regime because of the inability to oppose the war.

Russian Olympians, being officers, obey the orders of their criminal command, which are more important to them than the Olympic principles. In addition to subordination, athletes are dependent on the government over salary, mortgage loans, etc. 

The Olympians have already taken part in supporting the war of aggression: skier Bolshunov, rhythmic gymnasts the Averina sisters, swimmer Rylov, gymnast Listunov, and other prize-winners in the competition. They took the stage during a rally on March 18, 2022, in Luzhniki, where Putin spoke, in fact, on the occasion of the invasion of Ukraine, which had been unleashed a few weeks prior.

Notably, the leader of this coven of Russian fascism was none other than sports TV presenter Guberniev, who for several decades had worked as a commentator at the Olympic Games. And this was one of those days when the Russian army was destroying Mariupol, where tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

Here is another example of how Russia uses the Olympic movement as an ideological fuel for its wars. Gymnast and soldier Nikita Nagorny, 2021 Olympic champion, heads the children’s and youth military-patriotic organization “Youth Army,” which is a structure of the Ministry of Defense of Russia.  

Today, well over 1 million children and youngsters from Russia and Russian-occupied territories are part of the Youth Army, being raised in a militaristic spirit, being fed with hatred toward the “enemies of Russia” and the democratic world. When the Putin regime so massively militarizes its youths, this prompts a strong analogy with Hitler Jugend.

After the seizure of Crimea, Russia allowed the “Youth Army” to operate on the peninsula, and starting from early 2023 — in other occupied territories of Ukraine, in fact, recruiting Ukrainian youths into the invasion army, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention. Will it be okay, from the perspective of the IOC, if Russia sends the latest Janissaries to the competitions?

Over the past 15 years, Putin’s Russia has started wars against neighboring countries three times (!) under the cover of the Olympic Games. This is the main “Olympic record” of Putin’s Russia. Let us remind you that the attack on Georgia took place on the opening day of the 2008 Olympics. The occupation of Crimea was being prepared under the cover of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. At the same time, the troops that guarded the sports competitions took part in the invasion. And the full-scale war with Ukraine began after the 2022 Olympics.

In 2014, the FSB was shamefully exposed during an attempt to swap doping samples of Russian athletes. Despite this, Russia was given a chance to continue to perform under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee.

In addition to using banned stimulants, Russia is resorting to even more shameful methods of unfair competition. Russian invaders have already killed 184 Ukrainian athletes, who will no longer be able to compete for medals at the Olympics.

The broadcast of the Olympics from Tokyo, which took place in the summer of 2021, six months before the invasion of Ukraine, was used by Russian television to incite hostility. Thus, the state channel turned off the broadcast of the ceremony at the time when the national team of Ukraine walked at the opening under its flag. Some sports functionaries supported the move: “Channel One did absolutely right, radically. It’s time to treat them and explain who, where, and how. There is no reason for us to look at the national team Ukraine. You need to understand that the period of not doing anything has already ended. It’s time to slap them.”

The Russian Olympic movement is not only politicized and militarized, it also carries a terrorist threat. Russian athletes have become a tool that helps Putinism unleash wars around the world. Athletes sporting epaulettes bear their share of the responsibility for the Kremlin’s wars.

The international community, the IOC, cannot pretend that this isn’t happening and that one can confine oneself to simply replacing the flag. The aggressive manipulator and murderer it is, the Putin regime has no soul, and therefore it will not stop until it’s decisively fought back.

Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security

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