Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina echoes calls to ban Russia and Belarus from Olympics | CNN


Ukrainian tennis star and Olympic bronze medalist Elina Svitolina has echoed calls to ban Russia from the Olympics in a statement released on social media on Wednesday.

“The Olympics are the biggest dream and ultimate privilege for athletes. They are the largest platform for inclusion and diversity in sports, capturing the attention of the world,” former world No. 3 Svitolina said.

“With this in mind we must stick to banning Russian and Belarusian athletes, sending a strong message worldwide, that we are united in the sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus and that there are consequences for the heinous acts of their governments; their lives cannot continue as normal and the world, nor the Russian or Belarusian people can be ignorant of the atrocities they are committing in Ukraine.”

Russian and Belarusian athletes are currently banned from competing by many sporting federations following a previous recommendation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

But last week, the IOC said Russian and Belarusian athletes could be allowed to participate in competitions as “neutral athletes,” a move that could pave the way for them to be participate in Olympic qualifiers and then ultimately at the Paris 2024 Games.

On Tuesday, however, the IOC said in a tweet: “The sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian States and Governments are not negotiable. They have been unanimously confirmed by the recent Olympic Summit meeting on 9 December 2022.”

Svitolina takes on Bulgaria's Viktoriya Tomova in Mexico in March 2022.

Those sanctions include not inviting any government officials from either Russia or Belarus to international sporting events and not organizing sports events in both countries.

The statement did not mention the contentious issue of “neutral athletes” and CNN has contacted the IOC to clarify this.

Svitolina’s comments come two days after Wladimir Klitschko, the former boxing champion and brother of Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali, urged IOC President Thomas Bach not to “betray the Olympic spirit” and become an “accomplice in this abominable war” by letting Russian athletes compete.

“You propose to reauthorize Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris games. I tell you, the Russians are Olympic champions in crimes against civilians,” Klitschko said in a video posted on Twitter on Monday.

“They have the gold medal in deportation of children and rape of women. You cannot put your Olympic emblem on these crimes because you will be an accomplice of this abominable war.”

According to Reuters, Paris 2024 organizers on Wednesday “insisted they would abide by the International Olympic Committee’s decision on Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation in the Games after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the governing body into banning them from the sport’s extravaganza.”

CNN has reached out to Paris 2024 organizers for comment.

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