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Moscow slams IOC chief over anti-Russia campaign

Thomas Bach’s actions should be investigated, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has become “the conductor” of an anti-Russian campaign in sports, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

Zakharova’s statement comes in the wake of a scandalous interview where the IOC chief admitted to a pair of pranksters that Ukrainians have been asked to spy on Russian athletes online so that they could be banned from the upcoming Paris Games. Bach also accused Russia of being “very aggressive” toward the Olympic Committee.

“Basically, it’s he (Bach) who has become the conductor of the entire anti-Russian fuss inside the Olympic establishment,” Zakharova told Channel One Russia. “In my view, all these statements are sensational. It’s clear that all of this requires a public inquiry and a journalistic investigation, as well as a probe within the organization (IOC),” she added.

According to the foreign ministry spokeswoman, the West is doing everything it can to prevent the scandal from “gaining traction.”

On April 2, a videocall was posted by two Russian pranksters known as Vovan and Lexus, with one of them impersonating an African official. In the video, Bach claimed that by sanctioning Russian athletes, the IOC is “punishing those who are responsible for the annexation.” 

The IOC chief was apparently referring to the former Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye, which overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in public referendums in 2022. Crimea had done the same in 2014 after a Western-backed coup in Kiev.

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Olympic officials asked Ukraine to spy on Russian athletes – IOC chief 

When asked whether Russian athletes who support their country amid the conflict in Ukraine deserved the right to take part in the Olympics, Bach revealed that the IOC has a special commission which monitors public statements by athletes in support of the government in Moscow.

“We also offered the Ukrainian side – and not only offered, but also asked to provide us with their knowledge about the behavior of such athletes or officials,” Bach revealed. 

He stressed that any athletes found to have expressed support for the Russian government will be banned from the Olympics.

After the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, the IOC recommended that athletes from Russia and its close ally Belarus should not be allowed to compete in international events. In December last year, the body ruled that a limited number of people from the two countries could participate in the Olympics as AINs (individual neutral athletes).

In March, the international body announced that the maximum number of Russians who can qualify for the Paris Games is 55, while Belarus is limited to 28 athletes. However, according to IOC director James Macleod, the teams are unlikely to meet the quotas, with some 36 Russian and 22 Belarusian athletes expected to make it to the games.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the IOC decision “destroys Olympic ideals and discriminates against the interests of Olympians.” The restrictions are “absolutely contrary to the entire ideology of the Olympic movement,” he added.

 

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