Why Russian Athletes Shouldn’t Participate in the Olympic Games

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On January 26, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated it would consider admitting Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions. The idea of returning Russian athletes to the Olympics in Paris under a neutral flag has caused a wave of criticism both in Ukraine and in the world.

Why the silencing of their attitude or neutral position on the Russian aggression in Ukraine on the part of athletes of Russia and the Republic of Belarus cannot be an excuse for their participation in international competitions — explains the Centre for Strategic Communication.

First of all, because the neutral Olympic flag does not prevent Russia from using international sports for its political purposes. After all, the so-called false flag operations are already a familiar expansion strategy for the Kremlin.

The vast majority of Russian Olympians are at the same time officers of the armed forces and other law enforcement structures of the aggressor state. They are members of the Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA) or the sports society “Dynamo,” among the founders of which are the Federal Security Service, Russian Guard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and other law enforcement agencies of Russia. Let us remind you that the latter are directly involved in the aggression against Ukraine on a par with the military. 

For example, at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in the year of the full-scale invasion, Russian athletes won 32 medals. Among them are servicemen from CSKA — 14 medals, and the same number had their fellows from DynamoIn total, 88% of all awards of the Beijing Olympics in 2022 were won by athletes representing law enforcement agencies fighting in Ukraine.

At the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, army athletes won 45 medals out of 71 won by Russia, that is 63%. The Dynamo Society reported on 29 medals of its members. In total, CSKA and Dynamo took all the medals of the Russian team.

The most important thing to understand in the International Olympic Committee: in Russia, there are practically no Olympic athletes who would not be firmly embedded in the military machine of the Russian regime. Even coaches and athlete instructors are in military positions.

Two-time Olympic champion Isinbayeva receives another military rank from Defence Minister Shoigu. That same year, in 2015, she signed a five-year contract with CSKA. Until now, she is a member of the IOC from Russia because, according to officials, this major of the Armed Forces of Russia “did not violate the charter of the committee.” 

On August 29, 2016, Olympic champion Isinbayeva took part in a propaganda campaign — a sports exercise for the Russian military in Syria. “Everything here is steeped in such patriotism, such pride, courage, bravery…,” said today’s member of the IOC from Russia.

The propaganda campaign took place at a time when the Russian army was razing Aleppo to the ground, killing its inhabitants. Already in September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian Assad regime and Russia of war crimes — the use of incendiary and bunker bombs against residential areas of Aleppo.

The Olympic Charter declares that its activities are based on “general basic ethical principles.” “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” It is obvious that Russian policy does not comply with any of these Olympic principles.   

The fact that Russian athletes are officially army officers or have positions in other law enforcement agencies once again reminds that Putin’s regime is a continuation of the totalitarian USSR, with its militarization and control over all spheres of life. Modern Russia rehabilitates Stalinism, unleashes wars, systematically and brazenly lies and manipulates for decades, for example, shamefully swapps doping tests at the Olympics in Sochi.

Dictatorial regimes often use sport to demonstrate their superiority and attractiveness, and therefore to legitimize themselves in the eyes of both their own citizens and hostile democracies. The international community cannot afford the frivolity of not responding to the fact that sport is becoming a tool to justify the Kremlin’s wars.

The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in competitions during the aggression will give a wrong signal for Russian militarism and other authoritarian regimes — do whatever you want, you will get away with it.

Russian politicians and media are intimidating the world with nuclear war and claiming they are fighting a “satanic regime.” Nevertheless, they are willing to take part in the Olympics. Their participation in the competition legalizes the war in Ukraine and Russian propaganda rhetoric — “they do business with us and respect us.”

Let us remind you that the resolution of the European Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. And Russia’s victories at the Olympics serve to support the Kremlin’s terrorist activities.  

Meanwhile, “The European Parliament calls for diplomatic relations with Russia to be reduced further and for contacts with its official representatives at all levels to be kept to the absolute minimum necessary; calls on EU Member States to close and ban Russian state-affiliated institutions, such as the Russian Centres for Science and Culture…” states the Resolution.  

Putin’s regime forbids Russians to protest against the war. Under the new legislation, even the call “no to war!” can be interpreted as a criminal offence — discrediting the Russian army. Thus, every Olympic winner, on returning to Russia, will automatically become at least a silent accomplice to the crimes of the regime because of the inability to oppose the war. 

Russian Olympians, as officers, obey the orders of their criminal command, which are more important to them than the Olympic principles. In addition to subordination, athletes are dependent on the state due to salary, mortgage loans, etc.  

The Olympians have already taken part in supporting the aggressive war: skier Bolshunov, rhythmic gymnasts the Averina sisters, swimmer Rylov, gymnast Listunov, and other prize-winners of the competition. They took the stage during a rally on March 18, 2022, in Luzhniki, where Putin spoke, in fact, on the occasion of the attack on Ukraine, which had occurred a few weeks earlier.

Notably, the leader of this coven of Russian fascism was none other than sports TV presenter Guberniev, who for several decades had worked as a commentator for the Olympic Games. And this was one of those days when the Russian army was destroying Mariupol, in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed. 

Olympians at Putin’s rally on March 18, 2022  

Here is another example of how Russia uses the Olympic movement as an ideological fuel for its wars. Gymnast and soldier Nikita Nagorny, 2021 Olympic champion, heads the mass children’s and youth military-patriotic organization “Youth Army,” which is a structure of the Ministry of Defence of Russia.    

Screenshot of the news that Nagorny was elected head of the “Youth Army” in the hall of the National Defense Management Center, from which the Russian army is coordinated.

Today, well over 1 million children and young people from Russia and the Russian-occupied territories are part of the Youth Army, being raised in a militaristic spirit, having hatred towards the “enemies of Russia” and the democratic world instilled in them. When the Putin regime so massively militarizes young people, it prompts a strong analogy with Hitlerjugend.

After the seizure of Crimea, Russia sanctioned the activities of the “Youth Army” on the peninsula, and starting from the beginning of 2023 — in other occupied territories of Ukraine, in fact, recruiting Ukrainian youth into the army of the occupier, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention. Will it be okay, from the perspective of the IOC, if Russia sends the latest Janissaries to the competitions?

Olympian Nikita Nagorny at the head of a column of soldiers of the Youth Army at a military parade in Moscow, May 9, 2022. 

Over the past 15 years, Putin’s Russia has started wars against neighbouring countries three times (!) under the cover of the Olympic Games. This is the main “Olympic record” of Putin’s Russia. Let us remind you that the attack on Georgia took place on the opening day of the 2008 Olympics. The occupation of Crimea was being prepared under the cover of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. At the same time, the troops that guarded the sports competitions took part in the invasion. And the full-scale war with Ukraine began after the Olympics-2022.

In 2014, the FSB was shamefully exposed during an attempt to swap doping samples of Russian athletes. Despite this, Russia was given a chance to continue to perform under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee.

In addition to banned stimulants, Russia is resorting to more shameful methods of unfair competition. Russian invaders have already killed 184 Ukrainian athletes, who will no longer be able to compete for medals at the Olympics.

The broadcast of the Olympics from Tokyo, which took place in the summer of 2021, six months before the invasion of Ukraine, was used by Russian television to incite hostility. Thus, the state channel turned off the broadcast of the ceremony at the time when the national team of Ukraine walked at the opening with its flag. And some sports functionaries supported this: Channel One did absolutely right, radically. It’s time to treat them and explain who, where, and how. There is no reason for us to look at the national team of Ukraine. You need to understand that the period of not doing anything has already ended. It’s time to slap them.”

The Russian Olympic movement is not only politicized and militarized, but also carries a terrorist threat. Russian athletes have become a tool that helps Putinism unleash wars around the world. Athletes with epaulettes bear their share of responsibility for the Kremlin’s wars.

The international community, the IOC, cannot pretend that this does not happen, and that one can confine oneself to a simple replacement of the flag. The aggressive manipulator and murderer which the Putin regime is has no conscience, and therefore will not stop until fought decisively back.

Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security

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