UCI reverses ban on Russian, Belarusian athletes, keeps sanctions on teams
During the meeting of its Management Committee in Sardinia, the UCI approved a reversal of a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes participating in the World Championships, World Cups, Nations Cups and other UCI events. The move comes after the International Olympic Committee took the same measures in March.
Russian and Belarusian athletes, teams, and events have been the subject of UCI sanctions since March 1, 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine with the assistance of Belarus.
In a press release, the UCI said it decided to "reiterate its firm condemnation of the aggression of Ukraine by the Russian government" but also "restate its commitment to political neutrality" and underscore the "rights of athletes to be treated without discrimination".
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Ukraine has been ravaged by the conflict and the country's athletic facilities have been no exception. A report by Reuters on April 1, 2023, stated there have been 262 athletes killed and 363 sports facilities destroyed.
The UCI stated it will continue to support the Ukrainian Cycling Federation and its athletes, adding a new donation of 100,000 Swiss francs, with 20,000 Swiss francs coming from the European Cycling Union.
Additionally, the UCI will host Ukrainian Olympic hopefuls for the 2023 Paris Games at the UCI World Cycling Centre and help facilitate their participation in events to qualify for the Olympic Games.
However, these athletes may soon face Russian and Belarusian competitors, too, as the revision to the rules allows them to compete as "neutral individual athletes" as long as they have no association with their national federations or Olympic committees.
Russian and Belarusian athletes must apply to the UCI to get the designation as neutral athletes and, if issued this status, can then begin competing on June 1.
The sanctions remain in place against teams registered in Russia or Belarus, applications for hosting UCI events, sponsorship by companies from those countries and displaying flags, emblems or anthems.
Since the sanctions were imposed, the Russian-licensed Gazprom-RusVelo team disbanded after being prevented from racing. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the most high-profile rider to be prevented from racing at the World Championships under the bans. However, Vlasov has been able to continue competing in other UCI-sanctioned races because the bans do not extend to riders on foreign teams.