USOPC: Russian pathway possible, but sanctions must remain

Feb 1, 2023, 3:45 PM | Updated: Feb 2, 2023, 5:46 am

FILE- Gene Sykes claps after City Council voted 12-0 to endorse documents at the heart of its plan ...

FILE- Gene Sykes claps after City Council voted 12-0 to endorse documents at the heart of its plan to stage the Summer Olympics for the third time since 1932, in Los Angeles on Aug. 11, 2017. The new leader of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has reiterated the federation’s support for exploring a way for Russian athletes to compete at the Paris Olympics as neutrals. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

The new leader of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee reiterated the federation’s support for exploring a way for Russian athletes to compete at the Paris Olympics as neutrals, while insisting the current sanctions against the country remain in place.

Gene Sykes, who took over for Susanne Lyons as USOPC chair on Jan. 1, wrote a letter to athletes and other U.S. stakeholders last week after the International Olympic Committee announced it was moving forward in trying to craft a way for some Russians to compete. They have been banned from most major international competitions since the country invaded Ukraine last February.

“After listening to many athletes and constituents from around the United States, we recognize a real desire to compete against all the world’s best athletes — but only if that can happen in a way that ensures safe and fair play,” Sykes wrote in his letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The USOPC was involved in meetings in December in which the IOC first outlined the idea for Russians to participate as neutrals. The IOC emphasized that it doesn’t want Russians to be penalized simply for where they are from, but nor does it want athletes who have supported the war to be included.

Shortly after the December meeting, Lyons said the USOPC had signed off on the plan, though she expressed skepticism that the IOC would be able to create a system to determine who among the hundreds of Russian athletes had been supporting or speaking out against the war.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has lobbied French President Emmanuel Macron to not allow Russians at the Paris Games. Zelenskyy used a recent nightly address to the nation to insist that Russian athletes should not be allowed to participate.

Sykes acknowledged in his letter that the USOPC remains in solidarity with Ukraine and its athletes, and expressed “very real concern, even skepticism, about whether (conditions) can be met” to allow Russians in.

“As such, we encouraged the IOC to continue exploring a process that would preserve the existing sanctions, ensuring only neutral athletes who are clean are welcome to compete,” Sykes wrote. “This process will require careful management and will demand extra efforts to earn the confidence and trust of our community.”

Sykes’ letter, sent last Thursday, came as more countries are lashing out against framework the IOC is considering, which would call for some athletes from Russia and Belarus to be allowed to compete provided there is no representation of their country’s flags, colors or anthems.

On Wednesday, the Korean Olympic committee said it wanted further clarification from Asia’s top sports organizing committee, which has invited Russia to compete in Olympic qualifiers this year — a move that would remove Russia from its usual spot in European qualifying events and could also cost South Koreans spots in the games.

The day before, Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker said “this whole situation will look very different if the war is still going on in 18 months.”

In responding to the IOC announcement last week, Britain’s culture secretary, Michelle Donelan, said, “I want to be clear that this position from the IOC is a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people.”

Leaders in Latvia have threatened to boycott the Olympics if Russia is allowed. Meanwhile, when the head of Russia’s Olympic committee sounded an optimistic tone about his country possibly getting some athletes to Paris, the IOC reacted strongly with a statement that “the sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments are not negotiable.”

In his letter, Sykes conceded this was an “incredibly complex situation,” and that media coverage of it has been confusing.

“If these conditions of neutrality and safe, clean, and fair competition can be met, we believe the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games can prevail. This will continue to be our guiding focus,” he wrote.


AP sports: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

3 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

3 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

3 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

3 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

3 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

3 months ago

USOPC: Russian pathway possible, but sanctions must remain