Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals

World Rowing to reinstate limited numbers

3 minute read
Words Row360
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 07.06.23

World Rowing have eased their ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes. They will allow “a limited number of eligible athletes, holding a Russian or Belarusian passport, to compete as individual neutral athletes in a limited number of boat classes” at four upcoming events, including the 2023 World Rowing Championships.

Third party background checks and an independent “enhanced anti-doping control process” will be part of the eligibility criteria by which returning athletes will be judged, according to a World Rowing media release. Background checks are intended to ensure reinstated athletes are are not associated with, or publicly supporting, the war in Ukraine.

Those deemed eligible will follow the principle of absolute neutrality, meaning no flags, colours, anthems, uniforms, emblems or recognition of any sort.

World Rowing said, “the principle of depriving certain athletes – who are not associated with or supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – constituted a major dilemma for World Rowing”.

The decision follows the IOC issued recommendations published on 28 March 2023.

“Facing a highly complex situation, I believe we have found a solution that allows Rowing to play its role in building bridges between people and nations,” said World Rowing President Jean-Christophe Rolland.

“Following thorough consultations with our various stakeholders, and with different opinions on this sensitive matter being expressed and discussed in detail, our Executive Committee reached a decision that aligns with our shared principles of inclusion and placing athletes at the centre of our decisions. It also avoids punishing rowers for the action of their governments.”

The four 2023 World Rowing events include the Under 19 Championships in Paris, France, the Under 23 Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Coastal Championships and Beach Sprint Finals in Barletta, Italy, and the aforementioned 2023 World Rowing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

At Belgrade, Russians and Belarusians will only be able to compete in the single sculls or pairs, with Para and lightweight rowers in singles only. At the Under 19s in Paris, they will be permitted in every event except eights and coxed fours. Only singles sculls and pairs will be allowed at the Under 23s in Plovdiv.

Solos only, in Barletta, for the Coastal Championships and senior Beach Sprint Finals, with solos and doubles available to the reinstated rowers at the Under 19s Beach Sprint Finals.

World Rowing also reaffirmed its “severe condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and of the support provided by Belarus” and said they will continue their “strong support” for Ukrainian rowing.

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