Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine kept the IAAF away from Russia. But they have endured Putin's authoritarianism for far too long.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine kept the IAAF away from Russia. But they have endured Putin’s authoritarianism for far too long.
illustration: Getty Images

Sports organizations that cooperate with authoritarian states are finally coming to a reckoning. Not just FIFA and the International Olympic Committee, but the Premier League, Formula 1 and any sports league that cashes checks from questionable international sources while pretending that business is business.

The world order is disrupted, and so is the game.

Ukrainian tennis player Elena Svitolina refused to play against opponents representing Russia or Belarus on Monday. She said she didn’t blame the players, but she was reluctant to pretend her country wasn’t seriously threatened by the players in the field.

“…We – the Ukrainian players – ask the ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the IOC’s recommendation to accept only Russian or Belarusian nationals as neutral athletes and not display any national emblems, colours, flags or national anthems, ‘ Svitolina posted on social media.

ATP player Sergei Stakhovsky Said he joined the Ukrainian reserve team.

Sports have always been associated with politics, but in most cases, allowing free global competition has a greater advantage than keeping a ledger showing how often countries deviate from international values ​​- a ledger that can reveal the United States as much as any other .

But there are times like the one we are currently facing.

When we see Russian President Vladimir Putin kill peaceful citizens again in the name of the Empire, it is worth noting that this is not the first time.It’s a sports publication, but Many sites have detailed In recent years, whether in Chechnya, the Republic of Georgia, Crimea or Syria, Russia’s era has been disruptive, or the use of misinformation as a weapon in free elections abroad. Mueller report finds Putin Quite active in the 2016 US election.

Putin’s own political opponent, Alexei Navalny, is on trial after serious threats to his life and faces 20 years in prison on charges that few outside Russia believe have any basis in fact.

These things all happened before the invasion of Ukraine last week. At any point, sports leagues and governing bodies may reject Russian funding and pretend that Russia is just another player in the pantheon. They could have refused to use the Russian venue as a host venue, or they could have refused to buy a team, but ostensible normality prevailed. There’s no way they could help promote these brutal dictators and get them soaring on the world’s biggest sports arena.

Because of this, Putin himself traveled to Beijing last month to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics and meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. On February 11, Ukrainian skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych held up a placard that read “No war in Ukraine.” There are rumors that he may be cited for violating a ban on political speech during the Olympics.

But if you’re really going to talk about breaking the Olympic rules, it’s always been Putin’s Russia. The team was found to have put in place a comprehensive program to replace the dirty urine samples of its athletes, and therefore cannot (again) compete in Beijing as a country this year.But that hasn’t kept Russian athletes away from doping headlines, and after 15-year-old skater Kamila Valieva’s gold medal win, his sample is back Evidence of banned substances and two additional heart medications.

But the most sacred Olympic tradition that Russia has broken is the international truce. While the first part of the Olympics has come to an end, the Paralympics began on Friday and the international truce has continued into this period.

issued by the International Olympic Committee a statement about this violation. “… IOC President Thomas Bach reiterated his call for peace opening ceremony and closing ceremony Olympic Games. ”

By the time the tanks sailed towards Kyiv, it was too late to make statements and speeches. Bullies only understand accountability, and that doesn’t come in time. Instead, Bach chose to impose the rules on the athletes who use their platform to discuss injustice, not the perpetrators of the injustice themselves.

So now here is the liquidation. Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea Football Club, has handed over management of his club to an affiliated charity in what appears to be a bid to avoid being stripped of the team. The IOC (belatedly) recommended that sports leagues only allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete as nationally neutral. FIFA banned Russia from the World Cup, but only after many countries objected to playing against teams or Russian venues.

Close the barn door when the horse comes out.

Politics is not excluded from international sports. Pretending to be able to draw a line between the two just to suppress dissent. The only way is to have a clear understanding of the historical and humanitarian context that each country brings to the competition, and to develop clear, enforceable standards.

Sports leagues have long looked for another way.