Russians return to judo competition at Worlds as Ukraine boycotts

The Russians resumed international judo competition on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year at the world championships in Qatar as Ukraine boycotted the key Olympic qualifier.

Competing as “Individual Neutral Athletes”, the Russians got off to a slow start in Doha as their first competitor, Sabina Giliazova, lost her opening match to France’s Blandine Pont. Three other Russians are due to compete on Monday.

Seventeen judokas from Russia and two from its ally Belarus have been listed as taking part in the world championships, although several of them have apparent links to the Russian military. Ukraine withdrew its team from the event last week in protest.

The International Olympic Committee is in favor of Russians and Belarusians competing as neutral athletes without national symbols as qualifying heats up for next year’s Paris Olympics. The IOC, which last year recommended excluding Russian competitors on security grounds but now says it would be discriminatory, has left the final decision to the governing bodies of each sport.

Some sports such as athletics have maintained an exclusion of Russians and Belarusians from international events. Several other Olympic sports have said they are preparing to readmit Russians and Belarusians but have not yet done so, with some citing a need for additional time to decide on a process or a veterinarian for the athletes. The International Judo Federation has evolved relatively quickly.

The IJF allowed a Russian team without national symbols in the first Olympic qualifying event in June 2022 in Mongolia, which Ukraine boycotted but then backtracked and excluded Russia and Belarus for the remainder of 2022. world championships was the first time Russia or Belarus entered a team since then for a major international judo event.

The world champion skips the event

The IJF released Russian and Belarus entries for the world championships on April 30, just before the deadline. The Ukrainian government has a policy of boycotting sporting events of national teams that allow Russians or Belarusians, a policy backed by Ukrainian world judo champion Daria Bilodid, who is staying away from the championships as part of the boycott.

The IOC has recommended that sports not admit Russian or Belarusian competitors under contract with the military or security forces. Some of those competing in Qatar have already been listed in statements by the Russian Defense Ministry or the Army’s Central Sports Club, known as CSKA, as holding military ranks.

These include Olympic bronze medalist Madina Taimazova, who was on the list of Russian army staff sergeants in the Russian Ministry of Defense and CSKA statements of June 2022. Inal Tasoev and Mikhail Igolnikov won gold medals for Russia at the Military World Games, a sporting event. for the soldiers. CSKA listed Tasoev as a staff sergeant when congratulating him on his birthday in February, and Igolnikov as a lieutenant in a similar statement in October.

The IJF has not released its full criteria for deciding which athletes can compete and which are disallowed, particularly when it comes to military athletes. The IJF said there were independent verifications of the athletes’ “workplace”, that all those competing in Qatar were employees of a Russian state sports training center and that their media accounts social media had been checked for “pro-war interactions”. Propaganda”.

The IJF said it had rejected eight anonymous people from the Russian or Belarusian delegations.

Despite advocating for Russians and Belarusians to return to competition in Olympic qualifying, the IOC has not made a final decision on the Paris Olympics and has not set a date to do so.

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