World Athletics Head Seb Coe Upholds Ban of Russian and Belarusian Track and Field Athletes at 2024 Paris Olympics

Although the International Olympic Committee is allowing competitors from the two nations to compete at the Summer Games, they will be barred from running and track events

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In a bold and unwavering stance, World Athletics President Sebastian (Seb) Coe has reaffirmed the governing body’s decision to maintain the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in track and field competitions at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics. 

Coe is a former middle-distance track runner representing the United Kingdom in international competitions. As an athlete, he won two back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the 1500m in 1980 and 1984.

Following a career in athletics, Coe became a Conservative member of parliament from 1992 to 1997. He returned to athletics, becoming the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 London Olympic bid.

World Athletics Head Seb Coe Upholds Ban of Russian and Belarusian Track and Field Athletes at 2024 Paris Olympics 1

In 2007, Coe became Vice President of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), now World Athletics. In 2015, he was voted in as President of World Athletics and has remained in the position since.

The decision by Coe and World Athletics follows the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) controversial decision to permit athletes from these nations to compete in individual sports under specific conditions.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus became unable to represent their countries in international sporting events following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The ban on Belarusian athletes comes after the country remained a close ally of Russia and supported their eastern neighbor in the invasion.

World Athletics Head Seb Coe Upholds Ban of Russian and Belarusian Track and Field Athletes at 2024 Paris Olympics 2
Photo Credit: Mohan, Doha Stadium Plus Qatar

World Athletics, the governing body for track and field, has firmly stood its ground against allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes back into the sport. Despite the recent IOC announcement, Seb Coe emphasized at a recent press conference that the ban would remain in place.

Coe stated, “You may well see some neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus in Paris, but they just won’t be in from athletics. The position our sport took – and has consistently taken – on this is unchanged.”

Currently, only a small number of Russian (12) and Belarusian (6) athletes have met the Olympic standards for Paris. Notable contenders include high jumpers Mariya Lasitskene, Danil Lysenko, and pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidirova.

World Athletics Head Seb Coe Upholds Ban of Russian and Belarusian Track and Field Athletes at 2024 Paris Olympics 3

Coe reaffirmed, “We have a fixed position, and that’s not altered, and I think it’s right that international federations should make judgments that they feel are in the best interests of their sport, and that’s what our council has done.”

“Ours is a settled position. We’ve made the judgment that there will be no fully fledged or even neutral status athletes there.”

Although the Russian and Belarusian teams remain banned, the International Olympic Committee’s decision allows qualified athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutralathletes, devoid of any national symbols. This includes not being allowed to wear national team kits, have their country’s flag present, or have their anthem played during a podium ceremony.

Coe expressed skepticism about the IOC’s decision, stating, “The death and destruction we have seen in Ukraine over the past year, including the deaths of some 185 athletes, have only hardened my resolve on this matter.”

Coe dismissed the idea of organizing “friendship games” in Russia next year, citing the complexities of the sports calendar and the misalignment with World Athletics’ values and competition structure.

“I’m not getting too excited about that. It doesn’t align with our values and the structure of our competitions. Additionally, the current calendar poses significant complexities, leaving minimal room for such an event.”

World Athletics Head Seb Coe Upholds Ban of Russian and Belarusian Track and Field Athletes at 2024 Paris Olympics 4

World Athletics Council confirmed the formation of a Working Group, chaired by Prof. Francis Dodoo, to evaluate the status of Russians and Belarusians in international events, indicating a thorough and comprehensive approach to the matter.

Prof. Dodoo is a former Ghanaian athlete and was the President of Ghana Athletics until 2020. He has held various positions at World Athletics and is currently the Head of the Governance Commission of World Athletics.

As the sporting world grapples with the complex geopolitics surrounding the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, World Athletics has unequivocally asserted its position against their participation in track and field competitions at the Paris Olympics.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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