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Russia’s appeals to stop sport isolation

Russia has stepped up its legal fight against isolation in sports because of the war in Ukraine after its national Olympic body made an urgent appeal to overturn a ban on its athletes competing at a European youth winter sports festival.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said on Friday it was setting a timetable for the case ahead of the Winter European Youth Olympic Festival being held in Finland from March 20-25.

Russian officials had promised to challenge athlete bans imposed by most Olympic sports bodies this month, though no appeal to CAS has been announced relating to the figure skating world championships which start in France on March 21.

The appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) challenges the European Olympic Committees, whose executive committee decided on March 2 to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes.

CAS said Friday the ROC has not asked for an interim ruling – so-called “provisional measures” – to freeze the ban, suggesting the full merits of the case could be decided over the next week.

The appeal joins Russian soccer in going to CAS to push back against the country’s sporting isolation after the invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian soccer federation has appealed against bans on national and club teams by FIFA and UEFA.

Those suspensions were imposed on March 1 within hours of the International Olympic Committee urging sports bodies to act against Russia.

The arguments in favour of Russian athlete bans were restated on Friday by IOC president Thomas Bach in an open letter to international sports officials.

Bach said that while it was clear Russian athletes were not responsible for the war, the fairness and integrity of competitions where Ukrainians could be unable to compete had to be considered.

He also cited “safety risks for Russian and Belarusian athletes taking part in international competitions, because of deep anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian feelings following the invasion.”

Bach also criticised those who made the “cheap argument” that the IOC broke its own rules on neutrality by politicising sport with its call to block Russian competitors.

“Whoever so blatantly violates the Olympic Truce with political and even military means cannot denounce the consequences as being politically motivated,” Bach wrote.

He referenced the pledge signed by all 193 United Nations member states, including Russia, ahead of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics.

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