KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The presence of Belarus at the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo has been cast into doubt after the IOC dipped a rare toe into the political arena from which it traditionally stays aloof.
Questions over the country’s Olympic prospects were raised last month after reports of reprisals against sportsmen and women who had joined high-profile street protests against the long rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, so-called Europe’s last dictator.
Now the executive board of the International Olympic Committee has responded to complaints by a group of Belarus sportsmen and women by barring Lukaschenko, as head of the domestic NOC, from all Olympic sports involvement.
The demonstrations and protests had followed a contentious presidential election in August which saw Lukaschenko claim 80.23pc of the vote.
Lukaschenko, who is also president of the country’s national Olympic committee, has resisted international calls to step down and authorised an increasingly violent domestic crackdown.
Thomas Bach, German president of the IOC, took a hard line against Lukaschenko after a meeting of his executive board followed up on an investigation launched last month.
These provisional sanctions did not affect Belarus competitors’ presence at the Tokyo Games next August. That is as far as the IOC is concerned.
However, Lukaschenko’s defiance of domestic and international critics over the election might prompt him to order a total boycott of the Tokyo Games.
Bach said: “In view of the allegations received by the IOC and the responses provided by the NOC of Belarus the IOC has concluded that the current leadership of the NOC of Belarus has not appropriately protected its athletes from political discrimination.
“This is contrary to the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter.”
He said that the IOC board had thus decided:
Firstly, to exclude the currently elected members of the executive board of the NOC of Belarus from all IOC events and activities including the Olympic Games;
this includes in particular Mr Alexander Lukaschenko in his role as NOC president, Mr Victor Lukaschenko [his son] as NOC first vice-president and person responsible for the NOC’s responsibilities on a daily basis and Mr Dmitry Baskov in his role as an NOC executive board member.
Secondly, to suspend all financial payments to the NOC of Belarus with the exception of payments to preparations of Belarus athletes for Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022; all Olympic scholarships will be paid directly to the athletes and no longer through the NOC.
Thirdly, to request relevant international federations make sure that all eligible Belarus athletes can take part in qualifying events for the upcoming Olympic Games without any political discrimination.
Fourthly, to suspend any discussions with Belarus regarding the hosting of IOC events.
The latter sanction could result in Belarus being stripped of host rights to the Belarus co-hosting of the 2021 World Ice Hockey Championships.
Further to its decision of 25 November to start a formal procedure vis-à-vis the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Belarus, and taking into consideration all the allegations and elements gathered during this ongoing investigation, the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today adopted a number of provisional measures. They are applicable until further notice or until such time as a new NOC Executive Board is elected in February 2021 by the NOC General Assembly.
In view of the allegations and elements received by the IOC and the responses provided by the NOC of Belarus, the IOC has come to the conclusion that it appears that the current NOC leadership has not appropriately protected the Belarusian athletes from political discrimination within the NOC, their member sports federations or the sports movement. This is contrary to the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter, and therefore seriously affects the reputation of the Olympic Movement.
The EB decided to:
1. Exclude the currently elected members of the Executive Board of the NOC of Belarus from all IOC events and activities, including the Olympic Games. This includes in particular Mr Alexander Lukashenko, in his capacity as NOC President and legal representative of the NOC; Mr Viktor Lukashenko, in his capacity as NOC First Vice-President and the person responsible for the NOC’s operations and activities on a daily basis; and Mr Dmitry Baskov, in his capacity as an NOC Executive Board member and in view of the specific allegations raised against him. This provision is not applicable to Mrs Tatiana Drozdovskaya, as she is an ex-officio athletes’ representative on the Executive Board.
2. Suspend all financial payments to the NOC of Belarus, with the exception of payments related to the preparations of the Belarusian athletes for, and their participation in, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. All Olympic scholarships for Belarusian athletes will now be paid directly to the athletes, and no longer through the NOC.
3. Request the relevant International Federations to make sure that all eligible Belarusian athletes can take part in qualification events for the upcoming Olympic Games without any political discrimination.
4. Suspend any discussions with the NOC of Belarus regarding the hosting of future IOC events.
5. Request all constituents of the Olympic Movement to respect these measures in the interest of protecting Belarusian athletes’ rights and the reputation of the Olympic Movement.
The IOC EB will to continue to monitor the situation and reserves the right to consider any further action or to remove any of these provisional measures depending on the evolution of the situation.