International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach walks before the alpine skiing final at the World Downhill Championships in Courchevel, France, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

Governments from more than 30 countries issued a letter on Monday urging the IOC to clarify the definition of ‘neutrality’ as it seeks to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to join international competitions and possibly the Paris Olympics next year. next year.

“Until these fundamental issues are addressed and the substantial absence of clarity and concrete detail on an acceptable ‘neutrality’ model, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to resume competitions,” the report read. letter was obtained by The Associated Press prior to publication.

Among those who signed the letter are officials from the United States, Britain, France, Canada and Germany. These five countries provided almost a fifth of the athletes at the Tokyo Games in 2021. Other countries – such as Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which have not ruled out the possibility of a boycott Olympic if the war in Ukraine continues – also signed the letter, which did not mention a boycott.

The letter came after a Feb. 10 summit in London between leaders who heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy stressed that Russian athletes had no place at the Paris Games as long as that country’s invasion of Ukraine continued.

The International Olympic Committee wants to justify the presence of Russians at the Olympics and mentions the opinion of United Nations human rights experts who believe that Russians and Belarusians should not be discriminated against only because of the passport that they wear. The IOC wants athletes from countries that do not support the war to be able to compete as neutrals and not allow the display of their country’s symbols.

State Department Assistant Secretary Lee Satterfield signed the letter on behalf of the United States. In a separate statement, Satterfield highlighted the need for the IOC to clarify the definition of neutral.

“The United States will continue to be part of the larger community of nations that hold Russia and Belarus – and the bad actors dictating their actions – accountable for this brutal war,” Satterfield said. “Russia has repeatedly shown that it lacks respect and is unable to abide by the rules of international sport and international law.”

While acknowledging that there is a case for being allowed to compete as neutral athletes, the governments highlighted in the letter how sport and politics are intertwined in Russia and Belarus.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks its first year on Friday. Belarus is Russia’s closest ally.

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