Ukrainian former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has added to the pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as it meets this week. He called on the Olympic body to ban Russian athletes due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
FIFA and Formula 1 are among the biggest organisations to exclude Russian sport, with the country banned from competing at the football World Cup and hosting the Sochi Grand Prix.
The IOC has recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes do not take part in international competition or compete under a neutral flag.
Yet the IOC has so far refrained from sanctioning the Russian and Belarusian Olympic federations, or suspending Russian and Belarusian members of the IOC itself, claiming they are not representatives of their countries.
“The IOC should ban the Russian team now. The war is going now, they cannot participate at the next Olympic games, they cannot participate at any athletic events because this war is represented by Russia,” Klitschko told presenter Piers Morgan.
“Actions speak louder than words. Isolation, and this isolation speaks louder than any word or any line because isolation is painful.”
As a boxer, Klitschko won Olympic gold in the 1996 Games before turning pro, and was world heavyweight champion for over a decade before retiring in 2017. He enlisted in the Ukrainian reserve army shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
“It’s going to be painful for athletes, for the economy, it’s going to be painful for anyone and everybody involved with Russia,” said Klitschko.
The IOC gave its Russian members permission to participate in this week’s IOC session in Lausanne. The Executive Board is meeting today and Thursday, with the 139th IOC Session scheduled on Friday.
Apart from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the IOC also has to deal with the crisis at the International Boxing Association (IBA). Russian incumbent Umar Kremlev ‘won’ its controversial election last weekend, after his only challenger was disqualified from standing just one day before the vote.