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Ex-hockey star Fetisov says doesn't see any shift in Russians returning to global sports

"We need to exert pressure on the IOC since it issues recommendations to sports federations that are not legally-binding and we hear recommendations voiced by [IOC President] Thomas Bach that have no official authority as well," the lawmaker said
Vyacheslav Fetisov Sergei Karpukhin/TASS
Vyacheslav Fetisov
© Sergei Karpukhin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 17. /TASS/. Russian athletes practically do not compete in tournaments authorized by international federations, so it is too early to talk about the tide turning in in favor of them returning to the world arena, Russia’s lawmaker and legendary ice hockey player Vyacheslav Fetisov told TASS on Friday.

"The trend must be a substantiated story, but I do not see it at the moment, since we have tennis and chess players playing [at the international level] but that’s about it," Fetisov, a member of the Russian parliament’s lower house (the State Duma), said.

"Our hockey players play in the [US-based] National Hockey League, which has nothing to do with the international federation," Fetisov continued.

"As for the sport of fencing, the federation [FIE] was headed by [Russia’s] Alisher Usmanov for a long time, so we have some influence there and showed good results in that sport, but we cannot say the same thing about other sports," Fetisov added.

On February 28, 2022, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued recommendations to international sports federations to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from taking part in international tournaments, citing Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine as the reason.

Following the IOC’s recommendations in late February, the majority of global sports federations decided to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from all international sports tournaments.

At its session on January 25, the IOC Executive Board put forward a proposal to allow individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in international sports tournaments, but only under certain conditions. Athletes from the countries in question should not be "actively supporting" Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine and must compete under a neutral status.

Fetisov said in an interview with TASS that he believed that Russian sports federations should work together to exert additional pressure on the International Olympic Committee regarding the country’s participation in international events as well as qualifiers for the upcoming Games.

"We need to exert pressure on the IOC since it issues recommendations to sports federations that are not legally-binding and we hear recommendations voiced by [IOC President] Thomas Bach that have no official authority as well," Fetisov said.

"If the situation regarding our national ban is related to the Special Military Operation [in Ukraine], then they should include new clause in the Charter that a participating party in the military conflict should be banned from international events, but then the IOC would not be a sports organization, but a military-political one," he continued.

"We should ask the IOC to make this decision or to return our athletes [back to the international arena]. There are currently more than 25 armed conflicts around the globe, but somehow everything is focused on this single one, which relates to our country," Fetisov noted.

Russia’s special military operation

On February 21, 2022, President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was recognizing the sovereignty of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, (the DPR and LPR respectively). Russia signed agreements on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance with their leaders. Moscow recognized the Donbass republics in accordance with the DPR and LPR constitutions within the boundaries of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions as of the beginning of 2014.

Russian President Putin announced on February 24, 2022, that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics for assistance, he had decided to carry out a special military operation in Ukraine. The DPR and the LPR launched an operation to liberate their territories under Kiev’s control.

From September 23 to September 27, 2022, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic as well as the Kherson Region and the Zaporozhye Region held a referendum where the majority of voters opted to join Russia.

On September 30, 2022, President Putin and the heads of the DPR, the LPR, and the Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions signed treaties on their entry to Russia. Later, the State Duma and the Federation Council (the lower and upper houses of Russia’s parliament) approved legislation on ratifying these treaties, as well as federal constitutional laws on the accession of the four regions to Russia.