Russian athletes set to return in taekwondo at world champs

GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes are set to compete again in taekwondo at next month's world championships, the sport’s governing body said Monday.

The decision by World Taekwondo’s ruling council could see Ukraine fulfil a threat by its government to boycott sporting events where athletes from Russia or Belarus are involved.

Russia is strong in taekwondo. All four of its athletes won medals at the Tokyo Olympics, including two gold. Ukraine did not have any athletes qualify.

World Taekwondo leaders met remotely Monday to discuss the International Olympic Committee’s advice from last week to sports bodies to let neutral athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus return to competitions ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Conditions of neutrality should include, the IOC suggested, no active support for the war in Ukraine and not be “contracted to the military or national security agencies.”

The taekwondo world championships are scheduled to start on May 29 in Baku, where Russians and Belarusians can travel more freely without visa restrictions that are common across Europe.

However, military links between the Russian team, including some of its Tokyo Olympic medalists, and the army sports club CSKA could see some athletes barred by World Taekwondo’s vetting rules.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said the 71 medals won at the Tokyo Games included 45 with athletes affiliated with the CSKA club.

A review panel will oversee a “verification process to ensure strict neutrality of the participating Individual Neutral Athletes and support personnel,” World Taekwondo said.

“The three-step verification process will involve verification by the member national association and continental union, followed by individual-led confirmation by the athletes and support personnel, before the final assessment and approval by the Review Committee,” the South Korea-based world body said.

Russian taekwondo athletes were excluded from the 2022 world championships in Mexico because of the war in Ukraine. They won four medals at the worlds when they were previously held in 2019.

World Taekwondo said it called for peace in the war and pledged to “continue to support Ukrainian athletes in ensuring they can participate in taekwondo events.”


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