MUMBAI: The Russian Olympic Committee was banned with immediate effect by the International Olympic Committee for following its government’s recognition of regional organisations in four territories annexed from Ukraine.

However the punishment is largely academic and will not derail the IOC’s intention of permitting Russians to compete as neutrals at next year’s summer Games in Paris.

The IOC said, in a statement: “The unilateral decision taken by the Russian Olympic Committee on 5 October 2023 to include, as its members, the regional sports organisations which are under the authority of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Ukraine (namely Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia) constitutes a breach of the Olympic Charter.

“This violates the territorial integrity of the NOC of Ukraine, as recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in accordance with the Olympic Charter.”

The IOC executive board is meeting in Mumbai ahead of the IOC session on Oct. 15-17.


Thursday’s ruling does not affect any decision on Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation at the Paris 2024 Olympics which the IOC will take at a later date.

“The suspension of the ROC does not affect the participation of independent athletes,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a press conference.

While Ukraine welcomed the move, the Russian Olympic Committee called it counter-productive.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the decision reflected the need for universal respect for the “territorial integrity of nations and the U.N. Charter.

“And if someone in Russia, thinks they can use sport and the Olympic movement as their weapon, it will not work,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

The ROC said it was a politically motivated decision.

“Today the IOC made another counterproductive decision with obvious political motivations,” the ROC said in a statement.

“This secures de jure what was done de facto back in February 2022,” it added, referring to the ban on Russian athletes issued by most international sports federations in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The IOC had not sanctioned the Russian or Belarusian Olympic Committee or Russian IOC members since Moscow’s 2022 invasion but did ban athletes from those countries in the first few months after what Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’.

In March, however, the IOC issued a first set of recommendations for international sports federations to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return, competing as individual athletes with no flag, emblem or anthem.

The IOC has said athletes should not be punished for actions of governments.