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  • Strips Putin of Olympic Order too 

After judo, World Taekwondo takes away Putin’s honorary black belt

World Taekwondo has withdrawn an honorary ninth-dan black belt belonging to Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to the invasion of Ukraine, reported Ali Iveson of Inside the Games on Monday (28 February).

Taekwondo’s global governing body has also banned Russian and Belarusian flags and national anthems from its events.

Neither it or the European Taekwondo Union will recognise taekwondo events organised in Russia and Belarus, and will not host any in either country.

“World Taekwondo strongly condemns the brutal attacks on innocent lives in Ukraine, which go against the World Taekwondo vision of ‘Peace is More Precious than Triumph’ and the World Taekwondo values of respect and tolerance,” it said in a statement. 

The move follows the International Judo Federation suspending Putin’s status as Honorary President and Ambassador. The European Judo Union also withdrew Putin’s status as Honorary President.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has advised that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus should be banned from all international sporting events.

It has also withdrawn the Olympic Order from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The move follows an IOC Executive Board meeting where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was discussed, reported Owen Lloyd of the England-based Inside the Games on Monday.

Can compete as ‘neutrals’

In instances where Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot be removed from competition, they should compete as neutrals, the IOC has recommended.

This means that no athlete or team would be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus, with a recommendation for no national symbols, colours, flags or anthems to be displayed.

However, the IOC has said that if this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, it will leave the decision to the relevant event organiser to find its own way to address the issue.

Applied to Beijing Paralympics too

The Executive Board considered that this would be relevant to the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games.

This would likely leave room for Russian and Belarus athletes to still compete in the event despite the IOC recommendation they should be barred.

An International Paralympic Committee Board meeting today (2) is set to decide the policy.

Russian athletes already have to compete as “neutrals” under the Russian Paralympic Committee banner because of sanctions imposed on the country in response to the cover-up of a state-sponsored doping programme.

Ukraine, an exceptional circumstance

The IOC said that normally it would not punish athletes for the decisions of a Government if they are not actively participating in them, but the war in Ukraine is an exceptional circumstance and the body has made the decision in order to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all participants”. 

It has also condemned Russia and Belarus for breaking the Olympic Truce.

More than 210 Ukrainian citizens have been killed, according to Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova, since the military offensive was launched last Thursday (24 February).

In excess of 350,000 people have fled the country, whilst Russia and Belarus have suffered military losses in the thousands.

Events in Russia moved/cancelled

The IOC has also maintained its plea for International Federations to move or cancel any events scheduled to take place in Russia or Belarus.

Several events have already been stripped from Russia, including the Union European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League final, the SportAccord World Sport and Business Summit, and various International Ski Federation World Cups.

Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic are all refusing to play Russia in FIFA World Cup qualifying, despite football’s world governing body moving matches away from Russia and insisting the national team play under the “Russian Football Union” banner.

Russia may be banned from FIFA World Cup

Polish Football Association President Cezary Kulesza slammed FIFA’s measures as “unacceptable” on Sunday (27 February), and the latest IOC guidance could pave the way for FIFA to suspend Russia outright.

The IOC has withdrawn Olympic Order awards from Putin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, and Kremlin Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak.

The Olympic Order is the highest award of the Olympic Movement.

Gold Olympic Orders were bestowed upon Chernyshenko and Kozak in 2014, the same year Russia hosted the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Putin was given the distinction in 2001.

Russia ‘strongly object’ move

Sochi 2014 has come to be overshadowed by a state-sponsored doping scheme operated by the host nation, and which resulted in Russia’s name and flag already being banned from Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020, and Beijing 2022.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), criticised the IOC’s recommendations, and said “we strongly object to them”.

“Today’s decision of our colleagues from the IOC, in our opinion, contradicts both the regulatory documents of the IOC and the (Olympic) Charter, first of all, and the spirit of the Olympic movement, which should unite and not divide, especially when it comes to athletes and equality of participants of the Olympic movement,” Pozdnyakov claimed.

Challenge discriminatory decisions

He added that the ROC planned to discuss the implications of the IOC’s recommendations with International Federations (IFs), and would “provide all necessary assistance to our National Sports Federations to challenge discriminatory decisions of the respective IFs”.

While Belarus was able compete under its flag at Beijing 2022 and Tokyo 2020, several National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) officials – including President Viktor Lukashenko – were banned from the Games over allegations of discriminating against athletes who took part in anti-Government protests. 

Belarus and Tsimanouskaya

Viktor’s father Alexander, the Belarusian President and the former NOCRB leader, was also banned.

Campaigners allege athletes have been tortured, detained without cause, and not selected for national teams for expressing support for anti-government protests, whilst team officials attempted to kidnap sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya at Tokyo 2020 and return her to Belarus. 

Tsimanouskaya refused to board a flight and was later granted asylum by Poland.

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