Mar 14, 2022 - Sports

World Athletics chief says Russia sports bans must remain

World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe speaks during an interview with AFP at the Main Press Centre (MPC) of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on July 27, 2021.

World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe at the Tokyo Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, last July. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a "game changer" for international sport and while banning athletes from Russia and Belarus "set precedents," suspensions must remain in place, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said Monday, per AP.

Why it matters: International sports organizations have taken unprecedented action against the Kremlin, which has spent large amounts of money to host global events including the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup, as President Vladimir Putin sought to bolster the country's reputation abroad.

What he's saying: Coe, a British two-time Olympic champion runner, noted during a video conference call that there's "not a single sports federation out there that naturally wants to exclude teams or individuals, but this situation was different," per AP.

  • "We absolutely accept that this will set precedents and those precedents will have to be faced individually and sequentially and they will be with us for years," Coe said. "We haven't made this easy on ourselves but it is still the right decision.
  • "You cannot have aggressor nations, where you have so altered the landscape for the integrity of competition being untouched, while the actions of their governments have so influenced the integrity of sport elsewhere," he added.

Worth noting: Coe pointed to actions in other sports, such as soccer "where you've seen teams that decided they’re not going to play in playoff rounds."

The bottom line: "The impact is across the board. So they are going to need to remain really firm on this and do exactly what we've done," Coe said.

Flashback: International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons noted when announcing a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes days before the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games began that the IPC "are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix."

  • "However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many Governments are having an influence on our cherished event," Parsons added — noting that other nations would "likely withdraw" if the Russian and Belarusian athletes had remained in the Paralympics.

Go deeper: Axios explains Ukraine

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