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Over 30 countries urge IOC to continue ban on Russian, Belarusian athletes competing in Olympics
The governments of 34 countries called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to continue its ban on Russia and Belarus competing in international sporting events, including the 2024 Olympic Games.
"We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as 'neutrals' — under the IOC's conditions of no identification with their country — when they are directly funded and supported by their states," reads a statement published by the U.K. government on Feb. 20.
"The strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also of clear concern."
According to the statement, the countries' collective approach "has never been one of discrimination simply on the basis of nationality, but these strong concerns need to be dealt with by the IOC."
The signatories added that as long as the IOC doesn't set out a workable "neutrality" model, they disagree with Russian and Belarusian athletes being allowed back into competition.
"We also note that Russia and Belarus have it in their own hands to pave the way for their athletes' full return to the international sports community, namely by ending the war they started."
France, which will host the Olympics in 2024, is one of the signatories.
The nations who signed the statement also include the 2021 hosts Japan, Italy, which will host the 2026 Winter Olympics, the Summer Olympic hosts in 2028, the United States, and the birthplace of the Olympics, Greece.
The International Olympic Committee reported on Jan. 25 it plans to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the 2024 Olympics under a neutral flag, despite President Volodymyr Zelensky's plea to exclude them entirely.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, the IOC recommended barring athletes from Russia and Belarus from international sports competitions.
The move to lift this ban just a year later evoked a critical reaction from Ukrainian and global athletes.