IOC releases first neutrals list with 25 Russian and Belarusian athletes

With an ample majority of wrestlers and the stellar presence of road cyclist Aleksandr Vlasov and Olympic trampoline champion Ivan Litvinovich among the featured admissions for the Paris 2024 Games, the International Olympic Committee also included taekwondo as whole, albeit with no specific names.

A total of 14 Russian and 11 Belarusian athletes were listed on Saturday by the IOC on its initial admission of “Individual Neutral Athletes” (AINs) eligible to compete in the Summer Olympics. The athletes had to qualify for the Games and pass a double check, first by the international sports federations and then by the IOC, to prove they did not actively support the war in Ukraine or have any links with their countries’ armies.

An IOC Committee panel judged if said athletes from cycling, gymnastics, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling had expressed such support and will evaluate athletes from other Olympic sports in the following days.

The ones named on Saturday compete in four disciplines and 16 are wrestlers. The IOC has also approved two weightlifters, three trampoline gymnasts and four road cyclists, including Vlasov, who was fourth in the 2021 Giro. “Our cyclists passed the ‘test’,” Vyacheslav Ekimov, the President of the Russian Cycling Federation told Russia’s state-run TASS news agency. “The IOC allowed us to the Olympics, although I did not expect a different development. As for Vlasov, despite all his past statements, I think he will participate in the Olympics. And with great pleasure.” Ekimov said.

The President of the Russian Trampolining Federation, Nikolai Makarov told TASS he was not entirely happy. “The fact that the IOC has decided to admit Angela Bladtseva to the Olympics is very good news,” he said. “But I don’t understand why another one of our contenders for the only ticket – Yana Lebedeva – is not on the list. I hope that her name will be on the next list.” Defending Olympic champion Ivan Litvinovich, from Belarus, did make the cut.

Saturday’s IOC statement also listed taekwondo, but that section included no names. “It is absolutely true – none of our taekwondists will perform at the Olympic Games in Paris,” Vadim Ivanov, Russia’s taekwondo head coach told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. “In some sports, the number of eligible athletes may be lower than the number of earned quota places,” the IOC acknowledged in a statement.

After initially banning the two countries’ athletes from world sport following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the IOC adjusted their regulations to allow their participation, under a neutral banner, subject to strict conditions and excluding team events. Last March, the IOC said it was expecting 36 Russians and 22 Belarussians at the Paris Games “according to the most probable scenario”, and a “maximum” of 55 and 28 respectively. That would be far fewer than the 330 Russians and 104 Belarusians that took part in the last Games in Tokyo in 2021.

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The IOC will update its list as the final qualifying results come in. There will be no track and field athletes, as World Athletics, the international federation, has banned all Russians and Belarusians. Other sports have reinstated them so late that their presence is uncertain.

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