The federal sports minister has joined forces with other ministers from allied nations in calling for Russia – and Russian athletes – to be exiled from world sports after the invasion of Ukraine.
- Athletes from Russia and Belarus have already been barred from several sports after Russia invaded Ukraine
- Australia’s sports minister has joined his international counterparts in calling for the country to be exiled completely from world sports
- The demand comes as the opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics begins in Beijing
In a joint statement released late on Friday, the ministers have condemned the actions of the Russian government and called for a series of sanctions by sporting bodies, many of which have already been implemented after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) called for similar actions last week.
“Athletes and teams representing Russia or Belarus are not welcome in Australia,” Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said.
The impact has already been felt in Australia with this week’s official draw for September’s FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup to be staged in Sydney.
Organizers were only able to confirm 11 of the 12 participating countries. The 12th country was listed in the draw as ‘TBD’ after the sports governing body elected to exclude the Russian team.
“Every single measure taken to reinforce the condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is important,” Senator Colbeck said.
“It is important that all Russians come to understand that the actions of their leadership have made them unwelcome in the international sporting community.
“Sport connects across all nations and at all levels of society, and is a community that simply rejects the breach of peace and international law being perpetrated by the Russian leadership.
“We stand united with the people of Ukraine and urge Australians to show their support and solidarity, particularly for Ukrainian athletes at this difficult time.”
Ban welcomed by government, Australian Paralympic Committee
The government also welcomed the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) ban on athletes from Russia and Belarus only a day out from Friday night’s opening ceremony, a reversal on a vote taken the previous day allowing them to stay and compete as ‘independent athletes’.
The IPC said government pressure had been applied to a large number of national teams in Beijing, suggesting if athletes from Russia and Belarus were not expelled then many of the other nations would withdraw, making the Paralympic games unviable.
Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) president Jock O’Callaghan told The Ticket his organization had never supported the involvement of Russians in the Paralympic games because of the war in Ukraine.
“We were very clear and that was us as a member, that wasn’t a push from any political center or anything else,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
When asked if any pressure had been applied from the government he said, “none whatsoever”.
“We are in regular dialogue with the government on many things around the Games… so this is just one of those… that was more to keep the government informed of what was a very fast moving situation over there [in Beijing] but it was very independent of our own deliberations and our own decisions. “
‘There are no winners here’
Player unions such as World Players and Global Athlete were some of the first groups to call for a blanket ban on Russian athletes although the view from former basketball players and coaches at the FIBA World Cup draw this week was more mixed.
Recently elected chair of the Australian Olympic Committee’s Athlete’s Commission, four-time Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell, described it as a “really challenging dilemma” when the issue was raised at a group meeting on Friday.
“There are no winners here, and I’m not even sure there’s a right answer, or the right thing to do,” she told The Ticket.
“We went around in circles. What’s very challenging is that the Olympics is traditionally supposed to be above politics. It’s something that we work really hard for.
“But I think doing something is better than doing nothing.”
There have been reports that Russia’s exclusion from the Paralympic Games, and potentially other sporting events the nation had qualified for, will be challenged in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.