PHOTO AND STORY COURTESY WORLD ROWING
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The World Rowing Executive Committee decided to 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 upcoming World Championships. The eligibility of these athletes will be determined by a number of criteria, including a background check to ensure they are not associated with, or publicly supporting, the war in Ukraine in any form, and an enhanced anti-doping control process.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, supported by Belarus, the World Rowing Executive Committee at that time made the decision to suspend the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in World Rowing competitions. This decision, which followed the initial recommendations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was maintained to this day.
In parallel, World Rowing launched a campaign to support the different Ukrainian Rowing teams forced to train abroad. This campaign was strongly supported by the global rowing community. World Rowing and many of its Member Federations provided both financial and logistical support to enable the training of Ukrainian athletes across all categories, including Para-rowing. Several European host-countries facilitated such training, thereby contributing to a successful participation of the Ukrainian national team in the 2022 World Rowing events.
While protective measures had to be taken in early 2022, the principle of depriving certain athletes – who are not associated with or supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – of competing, has constituted a major dilemma for World Rowing since the beginning. No-one should be discriminated against on the basis of their passport. World Rowing believes in the importance of sport as a unique mechanism to build bridges between people even where governments are in conflict.
At the end of March, the IOC issued recommendations to IFs and international sports event organisers on how to authorize, under strict conditions, the reinstatement of athletes carrying Russian and Belarusian passports at their events.
Accordingly, World Rowing first conducted a number of consultations with its Member Federations and various other key stakeholders, including Council members and representatives from the athletes community. The Executive Committee met to review the situation and discuss the appropriate measures to be taken regarding upcoming international rowing events.
Second, World Rowing established a working group, tasked with advising the Executive Committee of the conditions that would need to be met for the athletes and officials holding Russian and Belarusian passports to participate again at World Rowing events should the decision be made to allow participation. This working group developed a regulatory and operational framework that would allow relevant athletes to compete while ensuring a safe and peaceful competition environment for all athletes.
On the basis of the above, the World Rowing Executive Committee decided:
- To continue its strong support for the people and rowing community of Ukraine.
- To reaffirm its severe condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and of the support provided by Belarus.
- To reaffirm its commitment to the fundamental values of sport and the Olympic movement.
- Referring to the IOC Executive Board recommendations of 28 March 2023, to authorise, under strict conditions, the reinstatement of athletes and officials carrying Russian and Belarusian passports to participate as neutrals at the following 2023 events :
– The World Rowing Under 23 Championships (Plovdiv, BUL)
-The World Rowing Under 19 Championships (Paris, FRA)
-The World Rowing Championships (Belgrade, SRB)
-The World Rowing Coastal Championships and Beach Sprint Finals (Barletta, ITA)
For each event listed above, World Rowing will authorise the reinstatement of these athletes only for a selected number of boat classes. The detail of the decisions for each event is listed below.
The reintroduction of these athletes will be implemented within an extremely strict framework of eligibility criteria:
- under the principle of absolute neutrality, including no flags, colours, anthems, uniforms, emblems or recognition of any sort – as defined in the Recommended Condition of Participation for Individual Neutral Athletes from the IOC;
- a thorough background-check process, implemented by a third party, to ensure that athletes who are associated with the military or war in any form, or have publicly supported the war, will be automatically excluded; and
- an enhanced anti-doping control process operated by an independent agency (ITA / International Testing Authority).
“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 center of our decisions. It also avoids punishing rowers for the action of their governments. 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.
Further information regarding the implementation of the decision, and the participation of athletes holding a Russian or Belarusian passport at the 2024 World Rowing Events, will be communicated in due course.
- World Rowing authorises, under strict conditions, the reinstatement of athletes carrying Russian and Belarussian passports at the 2023 World Rowing Under 19 Championships (Paris, FRA). All events except 8+ and 4+.
- World Rowing authorises, under strict conditions, the reinstatement of athletes carrying Russian and Belarussian passports at the 2023 World Rowing Under 23 Championships (Plovdiv, BUL). 1x and 2- events only.
- World Rowing authorises, under strict conditions, the reinstatement of athletes carrying Russian and Belarussian passports at the 2023 World Rowing Championships (Belgrade, SRB). 1x and 2- events only including Para, LW singles only.
- World Rowing authorises, under strict conditions, the reinstatement of athletes carrying Russian and Belarussian passports at the 2023 World Rowing Coastal Championships and Beach Sprint Finals (Barletta, ITA).