Four-time Olympic gold medalist Alexander Popovwidely regarded as one of the greatest male freestyle swimmers in history, believes that global sanctions against Russian athletes will not be in place for a long time.
Popov, a Russian native who was a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 2000 to 2016 (currently an honorary member), told Russia official state news agency CASS that the absence of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the competitions harms the organizers.
“Unfortunately, the assumption that sport is out of politics has lost its force,” Popov said, via translation. “We expect common sense to prevail. I’m more than sure this is short lived. Have you watched the Hockey World Championship?
Popov said the absence of the Russian team has devalued the 2022 Ice Hockey World Championships, an event where Russian Continental Hockey League (KHL) players are usually given a global platform with several players from the National Hockey League (NHL) unable to attend due to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Popov, 50, also noted that sporting events needed to take place in Russia between the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – a post-Soviet group – to keep athletes competing, including the Friendship Games in Kazan during the summer.
On February 28, the IOC recommended that international sports federations prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
FINA has banned all Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in its event for the rest of the year, and the European Swimming League (LEN) has imposed the same sanction indefinitely.
Popov swept the men’s 50 and 100 freestyle at back-to-back Olympics in 1992 and 1996 and won nine Olympic medals overall during his career. He also won six world championship titles, including three in the 100 freestyle and two in the 50 freestyle.
Bach says organizations must make their own decisions
While the majority of sports do not allow Russian athletes to participate, in some cases they can compete as neutrals.
IOC President Thomas Bach recently told the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) that they had to make their own decision regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and that they could not be influenced by governments who risked ” become a political tool”.
“We need the respect of governments for our role,” Bach said during his address to the ASOIF General Assembly in Lausanne.
He went on to slam Wimbledon, the tennis major hosted at the All England Tennis Club, for refusing Russians and Belarusians due to government influences after players were allowed to compete as neutrals at more events, including the French Open.
“Look at our tennis friends, in Paris Russian players can play as neutral athletes, in London, at Wimbledon the government says no, and if we allow that, if we give in to that, then we are lost” , he said.
“How then can you guarantee fair international competition in your sport, if governments decide according to their own political interests, who can compete and who cannot?
“So if you open that door, today it’s Russia and Belarus, tomorrow it’s your country, there’s no country in the world that’s loved by every other government.”
ROC Bans Attending European Olympic Committee Assembly
The European Olympic Committee (EOC) has not allowed the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to participate in its general assembly, according to a CASS report Thursday.
President of the CRO Stanislav Pozdnyakov said the committee would legally challenge the EOC’s decision.
“We are not admitted to the EOC General Assembly,” Pozdnyakov said. “We will be forced to respond to this through legal procedures. We will challenge that.
“The EOC’s decision was unexpected. From our point of view, this is illegal, hostile and may lead to the fact that we will challenge any decision of the General Assembly. This means that one wonders about the legitimacy of his outfit in connection with the last marches on the side of the COU. And these measures are completely contrary to the rhetoric of the International Olympic Committee. »
Pozdnyakov too said Thursday that the organization will retaliate against any “anti-Russian” sentiment that is pushed into the sport, but will do so in a calm manner.
“We are facing obvious speculation and attempts to escalate anti-Russian hysteria,” Pozdnyakov said at the ROC’s executive committee meeting in Moscow. CASS. “We do not respond to provocations, but we are certainly adamantly against anyone who exploits our silence for counterproductive purposes.
“We will certainly respond. But we will respond in a combined way of friendship and respect.