© Copyright -2023 – Athletics Illustrated

While the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach continues to rally to support Russia and Belarus’s inclusion in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Lord Sebastian Coe, not so much. It is an upstanding position for Coe, president of World Athletics, to take. His phrase, “I am not a neutral,” may well reverberate for decades.

File photo, Sebastian Coe addressing the media

Coe’s uttered it during a media roundtable. Speculation is that Coe’s comment is a rebuke to the discourse around Bach saying that Russians and Belarusians should be permitted to take part in international competitions as “individual neutrals.”

The position currently adopted by Bach in March 2023 is a 180-degree turnaround from the stance he harboured one year prior. At that time, Bach said publically, that Russia and Belarus should be banned from international competition. That is quite the change.

“Protect the integrity of global sports…”

In 2022, Bach said, “…to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all participants,” in reference to keeping Russia and Belarus out of the Games. However, Bach began to comment that “no athlete should be prevented from competing.”

Bach is now literally campaigning on behalf of Russia.

“The Olympic Games must always build bridges. 

“The Olympic Games must never erect walls.”

Coe is standing up for the World Athletics Council that apparently voted unanimously that Russia is persona non grata due to the war in Ukraine,

“We made a judgement as a Council last year that was well-nigh unanimous.

“We made that decision within days of the illegal invasion of a sovereign state, and we did it for reasons of integrity — this wasn’t about passports or politics.”

Bach maintained that there are many other conflicts happening around the world. However, fails to mention many are historical and civil conflicts, such as Ethipia’s long-standing issue in Tigray. There is the Middle East and its age-old infighting within the region. Russia’s attack on Ukraine was unprovoked and deemed illegal.

Bach went on the offensive earlier this year, “It is deplorable to see that some Governments do not want to respect the majority within the Olympic Movement or the autonomy of sport which they are requesting from other countries, and are praising in countless speeches and UN [United Nations] and European Union resolutions.”

His fellow Germans rail against him

German Canoeing Association

The German Canoe Association (DKV) has called upon the IOC “to clarify fundamental questions in sport” as it vowed to continue its exclusion of Russian and Belarusian canoeists from international events in Germany.

“We are aware that a reintegration of Russian and Belarusian athletes into the world of sports, as suggested by the IOC, would be extremely difficult,” DKV President Jens Perlwitz said.

“In our opinion, the current trend emanating from the IOC is not in line with the Olympic movement.

Germany’s Interior Minister threatens Russians

Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has threatened to block Russian athletes from entering her country if they are permitted to compete internationally.

However, Faeser is opposed to the move and insists that the country’s authorities have the power to ensure Russian athletes do not compete on German soil.

“Countries that host major sports events are not powerless,” said Faeser in an interview with German newspaper publisher Funke Media Group.

German discus Olympic gold medallist slams Bach

According to the publication, Inside the Games, Germany’s Olympic discus gold medallist Christoph Harting has launched a blistering attack on Bach for the organisation’s stance on Russian and Belarusian athletes and his relationship with Putin. 

The IOC’s latest set of recommendations suggested that International Federations should allow athletes from the two countries back into global sporting competitions provided they compete as neutrals.

“The fact that Bach is friends with a mass murderer wanted with an arrest warrant [Russian President Putin] may be his personal decision, but he and the IOC are driving themselves into ruin with this attitude and are dragging us athletes all along,” Harting, the Rio 2016 discus champion, told Sport Bild.

“If something like that is possible.”

German journalist Hajo Seppelt calls out Bach

Hajo Seppelt, a well-known German journalist for ARD TV who exposed Russia’s cheating in a documentary, “How Russia Makes Champions.” Seppelt also exposed the early days of Kenyan doping as an investigative journalist. Seppelt also helped expose former World Athletics president Lamine Diack that saw the 16-year reign come to an end with jail time.

Seppelt took to Twitter regarding Bach’s friendship with Putin. In German, he wrote, “Das übliche Schmierentheater von gewissenlosen Spin-Doktoren im IOC auf Wunsch des Präsidenten Bach. Gut entlarvt von ⁦@SZ_Sport⁩ ⁦@johannes_knuth⁩. Nicht RUS ist für das IOC offenkundig das Problem, sondern die UKR. Beschämend.”


“The usual gossip theatre by unscrupulous spin doctors in the IOC at the request of President Bach. Well exposed by @SZ_Sport @johannes_knuth. Obviously, the problem for the IOC is not RUS, but the UKR. Shameful.”

The story at SZ Sport is behind a paywall, however, the first paragraph indicates clearly the hypocrisy.

In the world of the International Olympic Committee, distortion of the truth is a standard tool. For example, when it comes to the re-admission of athletes from Russia and Belarus – and the IOC blames Ukraine for problems.

The international community also disagrees…

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo

It was reported here earlier this year that the Paris mayor is against having a Russian delegation in her city during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, while Russia wages its illegal war in Ukraine.

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, France said that she does not want a Russian delegation at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games while the country wages war in Ukraine.

“As long as Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine, I don’t want there to be a Russian delegation at the Paris 2024 Games.

“I would find that indecent.

“It is not possible to parade as if nothing had happened, to have a delegation come to Paris, while the bombs continue to rain down on Ukraine,” she said.

Other European protests

Meanwhile, the Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Vadym Guttsait, is considering a boycott of Paris if Russia and Belarus are to be present.

Other European leaders have stepped up to issue warnings about their participation. For example, the Minister of Sports of Austria, Werner Kogler, agreed that he is not in favour of Russia and Belarus’s participation in any way. The Olympic committees from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden wrote to the IOC to indicate they also oppose Russian and Belarusian participation in Paris.

The latest threats of boycotts in international competition are gaining momentum; it’s perhaps the thin edge of the wedge between Russia and Belarus and the rest of the world. This will not end well if Russia is included in any global competitions for reasons related to systematic doping, the illegal war in Ukraine and alleged corruption and bribery specifically in boxing. That’s a lot.

Football’s European governing body UEFA has excluded not only the national teams but also all Russian and Belarusian clubs from European competitions. The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne rejected Russian appeals against the exclusion.