More than 300 fencers, including nine medalists from the last Olympics in Tokyo, signed an open letter published Tuesday urging the sport’s governing body and the International Olympic Committee not to allow Russian fencers to compete while the war in Ukraine continues.
The International Fencing Federation, known by its French acronym FIE, voted this month to allow fencers from Russia and its ally Belarus to return to international competitions in the second half of April as qualifying for next year’s Olympics in Paris ramps up.
“The FIE is not fulfilling its duty of care for athletes, especially for Ukrainians. Your insufficient leadership in completely banning Russia and Belarus is being called out by athletes and civil society across the globe,” said the open letter signed by the fencers, organized by two advocacy groups, Athleten Deutschland and Global Athlete.
“You have chosen Russian and Belarusian interests over the rights of athletes, notably Ukrainian athletes, and by doing so, you are failing to support the very people your organizations are meant to support.”
The letter was published on the same day that the board of the IOC — whose president Thomas Bach is a former fencer — was meeting to discuss setting new recommendations for sports bodies 16 months before the opening of the Paris Games.
The IOC recommended excluding Russian and Belarusian athletes on security grounds last year following Russia’s invasion but has recently sought to create a pathway for them to return to competition.
The fencers who have signed include Lee Kiefer of the U.S., who is the Olympic gold medalist in women’s foil, French men’s team foil gold medalist Erwann Le Péchoux and four-time Olympic medalist from Ukraine, Olga Kharlan.
Billionaire Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov has been the FIE president since 2008, though he suspended himself from his duties on March 1, 2022, days after the invasion, after he was placed under European Union sanctions.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nbcolympictalk