The conflict surrounding the return of Russian athletes to international competitions is one of the biggest challenges for world sport – with unforeseeable consequences. IOC President Thomas Bach sees himself in a dilemma in view of Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, insists on the autonomy of sport and rejects government influence. “If we make an exclusion based on political aspects, we are facing a deterioration in the international sports system,” emphasized the head of the International Olympic Committee this week.

At its Tuesday meeting in Lausanne, the IOC Executive Committee will decide on key points to ensure that the conditions for Russian and Belarusian athletes to start are met. “No enviable task,” said Bach: “Only history will be able to decide how we will do justice to it.”

The IOC is obliged to act in order to provide a uniform line in view of the different practices in dealing with Russians and Belarusians by the world associations. “Otherwise it would be total chaos,” said Bach. “We don’t want sport as a political weapon, but as a unifying force.” The IOC’s view found approval in many parts of the world, in Africa, Asia, America and Oceania, but not everywhere, as the discussion in some European countries shows: “Inclusive, not to say, especially in Germany.”

In fact, the German Olympic Sports Confederation, the federations and athletes are not willing to follow the German IOC President unreservedly. Rather, there are great concerns and well-founded resistance at all levels against a return of Russian athletes, which the DOSB is currently rejecting. “That is the attitude that we represent in the DOSB and for which we feel a lot of support in German sport,” said the umbrella organization. We are now looking forward to the meeting of the IOC leadership. If the executive session were to decide to re-admit, then “strict conditions would have to apply that could be implemented and sanctioned”: “It is particularly important to us that Russia and Belarus cannot abuse the participation of their athletes for war propaganda purposes.”

The spokesman for the DOSB umbrella organizations, Andreas Michelmann, calls for a comprehensible decision from the IOC: “This requires clear criteria and universal rules according to which a country or its National Olympic Committee is excluded or re-admitted.” He is confident that the German Sport will be “largely unanimous” at the end of this process. Based on the statement by two UN experts, according to which no athlete should be prevented from starting a competition because of his or her passport, the IOC is pleading for re-admission. However, Thomas Summerer, President of the German Association for Sports Law, criticizes this attitude. Instead of drawing a red line, practice an unrealistic policy of concessions and appeasements. The policy of the IOC harbors the danger of dividing the international community and conjuring up a boycott.

The lobby group for athletes in Germany is also convinced of this. “We expect the IOC to uphold the recommendations to exclude Russia from world sport and to vehemently demand their implementation by the world associations,” said Maximilian Klein, Director of Sports Policy. It is urgently necessary for the IOC to deal with the DOSB report, according to which the exclusion of Russian athletes is legal.

The events in fencing should remain an alarming negative example. The world association FIE had decided by a large majority that Russians and Belarusians would be allowed to fight internationally again in the future. “The ignorance of the world association has foreseeably meant that the victims of aggressive war are forced to retreat, while the aggressor is courted on the way back onto the world sport stage,” said Klein.

Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus had a different experience on the tennis tour. “It was really hard for me because I’ve never experienced so much hate,” she reported before the current tournament in Miami. The second in the world rankings cannot understand “that there are so many people who hate me for no reason.” The 24-year-old emphasized: “I haven’t done anything.”