Olympics: Russian fencers reject IOC format for return to competition

AFP , Thursday 11 May 2023

Russia's fencers have rejected the "proposed 'return format" set out by the IOC to return to international competition, the Russian Olympic Committee said Thursday, raising the possibility of a boycott of Olympic qualifiers.

Sofia Pozdniakova
Russia s Sofia Pozdniakova (R) won two gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: AFP


"As far as fencing in particular is concerned, I have repeatedly discussed with members of the national team the proposed 'return' format," ROC president Stanislav Pozdniakov said on Telegram.

"And I can say that none of them have considered and are considering the option of participating in international tournaments within the existing restrictions."

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) was the first to authorise the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes since the invasion of Ukraine, specifying in March it was awaiting International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendations.

On March 28, the IOC recommended the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions - without commenting on their presence at the 2024 Paris Games - under several conditions.

These include competing under a neutral flag, individually, not having a contract with the Russian army or security services, or having supported the war in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.

"It's actually a poorly disguised toolbox of exclusion, not to mention the discrimination and double standards still applied on the basis of nationality," added Pozdniakov, a four-time Olympic sabre champion.

The first qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics next year took place without Russians, as will men's and women's sabre qualifiers this weekend in Georgia and Spain.

In Tokyo in 2021, Pozdniakov's daughter Sofia Pozdniakova won the Olympic sabre team title along with Sofya Velikaya and Olga Nikitina.

Pozdniakova also won the individual gold, succeeding countrywoman Yana Egorian, while Velikaya took individual silver in the last three Olympics.

These four competitors are however listed as being an "Armed Forces Athlete" on the FIE website.

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