Russia, Belarus athletes barred from Paralympics after boycott threats, safety concerns

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Russian and Belarusian athletes were barred from the Paralympics after the International Paralympic Committee said athletes from many other nations vowed to not compete if they remained in the Games.

The IPC also said ensuring safety at the athletes’ village was becoming untenable after an earlier decision to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutral athletes. The Games open Friday.

“We are also firm believers that sport and politics should not mix,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said. “However, it is clear that maybe now, due to the current situation, that is no longer possible. The war has now come to these Games, and behind the scenes, many governments are having an influence on our cherished event.

“A rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible situation so close to the start of the Games.”

The IPC reversed a decision from 20 hours earlier that allowed Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals without their national flags, symbols and anthems. Russians were previously set to compete as members of the Russian Paralympic Committee, without their flag and anthem due to the nation’s previous sanctions for doping.

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In explaining their initial decision, the IPC anticipated that if the athletes were barred, a legal appeal to get them back in would be successful based on the IPC’s rulebook.

After the initial decision, Parsons said that “a really high number” of National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) said at least some of their athletes would not compete in the Games if Russians and Belarusians were allowed to compete, even as neutrals.

“What we’ve seen in the 14 hours since is a move from letters [from NPCs] of ‘We think you should ban,’ to now, ‘We’re thinking of going home. We’re not playing,'” IPC spokesperson Craig Spence said. “That’s a huge change. If we don’t act on that, then we’re crazy.

“If we didn’t pivot on today’s decision, we’d probably be talking to you in two days’ time about the fact that there’s not enough athletes here to do the Games.”

Parsons said he spoke with National Paralympic Committees’ chefs de mission on Thursday morning. Wheelchair curling teams and sled hockey teams were refusing to play. The first games in those sports are Saturday, the day after the Opening Ceremony.

Parsons also said that the athletes’ village “was becoming a very volatile environment” after the initial decision to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals, though there were no reports of aggression.

“There was a level of animosity that, of course, was absolutely counter-productive to what, first of all, we want to have here, which is a fair competition between athletes from different nations,” Parsons said. “The athletes’ reactions showed us that if we did not take action, the situation could get worse.”

The IPC is working to get the Russian and Belarusian athletes travel arrangements to return home.

“To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decision that your government took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce,” Parsons said, noting the tradition of nations agreeing to peace through the Olympics and Paralympics. “You are victims of your government’s actions.”

Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin said Russia is drafting an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport before the Opening Ceremony, according to Russian news agency TASS.

The Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) called the ban “completely unfounded.”

“It clearly contradicts one of the basic principles of the Paralympic family — the apolitical nature of sport for the disabled,” it said in a statement. “In accordance with this decision the RPC and Russian Para athletes appear as the perpetrators of the current political conflicts. … They have not done anything that in any way can be interpreted as participation in the current political complications.”

In a statement, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it strongly supported the IPC’s decision to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes.

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IOC board recommends withdrawing International Boxing Association’s recognition

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Boxing

The IOC finally ran out of patience with the International Boxing Federation on Wednesday and set a date to terminate its Olympic status this month.

While boxing will still be on the program at the 2024 Paris Games, the International Olympic Committee said its executive board has asked the full membership to withdraw its recognition of the IBA at a special meeting on June 22.

IOC members rarely vote against recommendations from their 15-member board and the IBA’s ouster is likely a formality.

The IOC had already suspended the IBA’s recognition in 2019 over long-standing financial, sports integrity and governance issues. The Olympic body oversaw the boxing competitions itself at the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021 and will do so again for Paris.

An IOC statement said the boxing body “has failed to fulfil the conditions set by the IOC … for lifting the suspension of the IBA’s recognition.”

The IBA criticized what it called a “truly abhorrent and purely political” decision by the IOC and warned of “retaliatory measures.”

“Now, we are left with no chance but to demand a fair assessment from a competent court,” the boxing body’s Russian president Umar Kremlev said in a statement.

The IOC-IBA standoff has also put boxing’s place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games at risk, though that should now be resolved.

The IOC previously stressed it has no problem with the sport or its athletes — just the IBA and its current president Kremlev, plus financial dependence on Russian state energy firm Gazprom.

In a 24-page report on IBA issues published Wednesday, the IOC concluded “the accumulation of all of these points, and the constant lack of drastic evolution throughout the many years, creates a situation of no-return.”

Olympic boxing’s reputation has been in question for decades. Tensions heightened after boxing officials worldwide ousted long-time IOC member C.K. Wu as their president in 2017 when the organization was known by its French acronym AIBA.

“From a disreputable organization named AIBA governed by someone from the IOC’s upper echelon, we committed to and executed a change in the toxic and corrupt culture that was allowed to fester under the IOC for far too long,” Kremlev said Wednesday in a statement.

National federations then defied IOC warnings in 2018 by electing as their president Gafur Rakhimov, a businessman from Uzbekistan with alleged ties to organized crime and heroin trafficking.

Kremlev’s election to replace Rakhimov in 2020 followed another round of IOC warnings that went unheeded.

Amid the IBA turmoil, a rival organization called World Boxing has attracted initial support from officials in the United States, Switzerland and Britain.

The IBA can still continue to organize its own events and held the men’s world championships last month in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

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Iga Swiatek beats Coco Gauff at French Open; U.S. major drought now longest in history


Iga Swiatek swept Coco Gauff in the French Open quarterfinals, rolling toward a possible third Roland Garros title while extending the U.S. major singles title drought to the longest in history.

The top seed Swiatek won 6-4, 6-2 in a rematch of last year’s French Open final. Swiatek has beaten the American in straight sets in all seven of their meetings, though Gauff made this one more competitive than most.

Gauff, the sixth seed and the the only teenager in the world top 49, stayed with Swiatek in the first set until being broken at love in the final game. In the second set, she lost three break points at 1-all.

“Obviously you lose to someone seven times, you feel crappy,” Gauff said. “It’s not fun at all, but also, every time I play her, I’m not thinking about the previous record. I treat it as a new opportunity every single time, and I think that’s the best way to do it. If I go in believing that I lost the match before it already happens, then I’m never going to win. But obviously when it’s over, yeah, it does suck.”

Swiatek, who won 23 consecutive games earlier in the tournament, dropped more than four games in a match for the first time all tournament.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “Coco was really using the conditions here.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

In Thursday’s semifinals, Swiatek gets 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maid, the first Brazilian woman to reach the last four of a major since Maria Bueno at the 1968 U.S. Open. Haddad Maia, who never made it past the second round in 11 previous majors, overcame No. 7 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 in an earlier quarterfinal.

The other semifinal pits No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka against 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova.

Gauff was the last American left in either singles draw.

The U.S. has now gone 12 consecutive majors without a men’s or women’s singles champion, breaking the record for its longest drought in history (dating to 1877). The previous record of 11 in a row spanned between Chuck McKinley‘s win at 1963 Wimbledon to the first of Billie Jean King‘s 12 major singles titles at 1966 Wimbledon.

The 12-major drought for U.S. women alone is the longest since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

The last American woman to win a major singles title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The last American man to win was Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open.

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