Russian, Belarusian skiers barred from Otepää biathlon world cup stage
Russian and Belarusian athletes are barred from taking part in next month's Biathlon World Cup event in Otepää, the sport's governing body has confirmed, though individual competitors may take part under a neutral flag.
The move followed a decision by the Estonian government that the national teams of Russia and Belarus may not take part in the competition, following Thursday's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine.
Norway's ski federation had also announced earlier on Saturday that sportspeople from Russia and Belarus were not welcome at events held in that country.
After a video conference discussing the invasion and its implications on the sport, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) issued a statement which said that:
"The Estonian government confirmed to the organizers and the national federation that the event can be held, but announced that Russian and Belarusian teams are not allowed to take part."
The event itself, scheduled for March 10-13, can still go ahead.
"The IBU Executive Board took note of this decision and decided that the event will go ahead in Otepää," the statement continued.
"The IBU strongly condemns the Russian attacks on Ukraine and expresses its deepest sympathies for all those affected."
"Ukraine is a country with a great biathlon tradition and fan-base, and the IBU stands in solidarity with them. We sincerely hope a peaceful resolution can be found to put an end to the current conflict and suffering," the statement continued.
The decision followed Friday's call by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for governing sports bodies to not use the flags of the Russian Federation or of Belarus at any event, and for the cancellation of any planned events in those two countries.
"Following the IOC Executive Board's request yesterday afternoon, the IBU board decided to further elaborate on the IOC's recommendations to ensure that national symbols of Russia and Belarus are not present at IBU events," the statement from the IBU continued.
It also followed a decision by Norway's national ski federation that Russian athletes are not eligible to take part in upcoming events in that country, Reuters reports.
The IBU added it was in continuous dialogue with Ukraine and was offering all the help and support it could to the biathlon family there, while Ukraine's biathlon team had already informed the IBU it would not be taking part in any remaining World Cup of IBU events for the rest of the season.
The Ukrainian flag will be raised at all events to honor the Ukrainian team, in their absence, the IBU added.
While Russia and Belarus are barred from all events, individual athletes may be invited to compete as neutrals, under the IBU flag.
No Russian or Belarusian flags, national emblems or symbols may be displayed at events and athletes' clothing may not be in the national colors of those two countries.
Neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus who do end up competing cannot score national points, and the national anthems cannot be played at awards ceremonies, or at any other time.
The IBU added that in future, it will support Ukrainian athletes and its biathlon federation, financially, logistically and technically, once the situation allows and to permit them to take part in training and competitions once again.
The above ruling is already in effect in respect of the current and ongoing Youth and Junior World Championships taking place in the U.S., in Soldier Hollow, Utah, the IBU says, while the organization added it had been in touch with organizers of upcoming events in Kontiolahti, Finland, and in Oslo, Norway, as well as in Otepää.
The full IBU statement is here.
Russia has announced it is pulling out of the remainder of the World Championship series in any event.
Estonia's olympic gold medal-winning women's épée foursome have withdrawn from a world cup tournament in Sochi, while Russia has been stripped of its right to host the UEFA Champion's League final this year, which has been relocated to Paris. The Russian Formula One Grand Prix, which was due to take place in September, has been cancelled
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Editor: Andrew Whyte