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World Aquatics Establishes Conditions for Russian and Belarusian Athletes to Compete as Neutrals


Sep 4, 2023

Swimmers and divers from Russia and Belarus who meet specific criteria can now return to international competitions as individual neutral athletes, according to World Aquatics. This decision comes after the organization banned athletes from these countries from its events since March 2022. World Aquatics President Husain Al Musallam emphasized the commitment and talent of athletes, regardless of their nationality. However, athletes must adhere to certain criteria, including not supporting the war in Ukraine and not having contracts with the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies.

The criteria set by World Aquatics states that any form of support for the war in Ukraine, whether through verbal, non-verbal, or written expression, will disqualify athletes from returning. This includes public statements, participation in pro-war events or demonstrations, and the wearing of symbols associated with the war. To regain eligibility, athletes must clear the approval process by the Aquatics Integrity Unit. Those who are approved will only be allowed to compete in individual events, excluding relays, synchronized diving, artistic swimming events on the Olympic program, and water polo competitions.

Neutral athletes approved by the Aquatics Integrity Unit will compete in “plain white” uniforms without their national flags, anthems, or symbols. Other international sports federations have also implemented similar criteria for the return of athletes from Russia and Belarus. World Aquatics has not specified a specific date or competition for their return, but it is expected to be in effect for the upcoming swimming World Cup series in Europe in October and the world championships in Doha in February.

World Aquatics revealed that 67 percent of international athletes surveyed support the return of individual Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals, assuming they meet the established criteria. Qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics is still open, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that its decision on the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus will not be influenced by qualifying results. At the Tokyo Games, athletes from Russia won five swimming medals, including Yevgeny Rylov’s gold medals in the men’s backstrokes. However, Rylov lost his sponsorship from Speedo after appearing at a pro-war rally in March 2022.

By Editor

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