Sports organizations are benching Russian teams over the invasion of Ukraine

A banner at Monday’s Italian Serie A match between Atalanta and Sampdoria calls for a stop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Paolo Magni/EPA-EFE)

As the invasion of Ukraine continues, sports leagues and organizations have begun to sideline Russia’s teams and athletes.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee recommended that international sports federations not allow Russian or Belarusian athletes and officials to participate in international competition “to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”

By Tuesday, several organizations and leagues had adopted measures along those lines, suspending athletes and officials and moving scheduled events out of Russia while condemning President Vladimir Putin’s actions.

On Thursday, with the Paralympic Games opening Friday, the International Paralympic Committee barred Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Beijing Games after initially saying they could compete as “neutral” athletes.

Here’s a look at what else has happened so far:


International Olympic Committee

The IOC’s executive board, in its recommendation to not allow Russian or Belarusian athletes and officials to participate, said in a statement that it was moving “to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”

If that is not possible because of short notice, the IOC urged organizations to “do everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus. Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colors, flags or anthems should be displayed.”

Russia, Belarus barred from competition by International Skating Union


International Paralympic Committee

After initially allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Paralympic Games as “neutral athletes,” the IPC Committee reversed course Thursday after what it said was an “overwhelming” response from members, some of whom threatened not to compete.

“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said. “With this in mind, and to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus,” referring to the two countries’ Paralympic committees.


U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Athletes’ Advisory Council called Tuesday on the IOC to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes entirely from international competition, including the Paralympic Games.

Before the IPC reversal, Sarah Hirschland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, told Team USA athletes Wednesday that “while we can empathize with the difficulty of this decision and the IPC’s desire to protect the athletes’ rights to compete, we are disappointed in this outcome as it excuses Russia’s disregard for not only the Olympic truce, but also for the victims of a senseless war.”


Special Olympics International

Special Olympics International issued a statement Friday announcing that it would no longer host the World Winter Games in Kazan, Russia in 2023. The organization called it “impossible to proceed” with the games given the violence in Ukraine among other factors.

“Persons with an intellectual disability are suffering disproportionately, unfairly, and tragically in this war, as they have during the pandemic,” the statement read. “We join our voices to millions around the world demanding peace and an end to violence immediately.”



FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, announced Monday that it was suspending all Russian teams, both national and club squads, from international competition until further notice. In a joint statement by FIFA and UEFA, which oversees the game in Europe, the groups said they hoped “the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”

FIFA and UEFA suspend Russia from soccer competitions

FIFA had issued an initial set of penalties that banned Russia from using its flag, anthem and name at matches, a move that would have forced the team to compete as “Football Union of Russia.”

That statement also noted that no international games could be played in Russia and that Russia’s “home games” had to be played at neutral sites with no fans. Russia was scheduled to host Poland and possibly Sweden or the Czech Republic in World Cup qualifiers in March, but the other three teams said they would not play.

UEFA joined FIFA in Monday’s announcement by stating that Russian teams were suspended from international competition, including at the Champions League and the second-tier Europa League. UEFA had followed the same protocol as FIFA with Sunday’s sanctions barring the flag, anthem and name.

Spartak Moscow, a men’s team that had advanced to the round of 16 of the Europa League, is no longer eligible. Its opponent, RB Leipzig, will advance to the quarterfinals.

Last week, UEFA moved the Champions League final, the world’s biggest club match, from St. Petersburg to suburban Paris on May 28.

The Russian Football Union said Thursday that it would appeal the punishment before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, saying that it “believes that FIFA and UEFA did not have a legal basis when deciding on the removal of Russian teams. The Russian Football Union was also not given the right to present its position, which violated the fundamental right to defense.” It hopes for a ruling before World Cup games involving Russia later this month.


International Skating Union

The International Skating Union, which governs figure skating, synchronized skating, speedskating and short-track speedskating around the world, barred skaters from Russia and Belarus in a decision that affects the figure skating world championships this month.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Anna Shcherbakova and Kamila Valieva will not be allowed to compete in the event in Montpellier, France. Valieva, the 15-year-old who finished out of the running for a medal in the Olympics free skate, had been allowed to skate as her appeal of a positive drug test is considered. More immediately, the speedskating world championships are set to begin Thursday in Norway.


World Athletics

The governing body of track and field, cross-country running, race walking, mountain running and ultra running, World Athletics announced that “all athletes, support personnel and officials from Russia and Belarus will be excluded from all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future, with immediate effect.”

Included in the upcoming events are the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade22 and the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Muscat22, which begin Friday in Oman.

“Anyone who knows me will understand that imposing sanctions on athletes because of the actions of their government goes against the grain,” said Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics president. “I have railed against the practice of politicians targeting athletes and sport to make political points when other sectors continue about their business. This is different as governments, business and other international organizations have imposed sanctions and measures against Russia across all sectors. Sport has to step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and should not sit this one out.”



The Women’s Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals jointly announced that they would “suspend” a combined tournament scheduled for October in Russia. The International Tennis Federation’s board suspended the membership of the two countries’ tennis federations and withdrew their entries from all ITF international team competition.

Players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete in international tennis events on Tour and in the Grand Slam tournaments, but they will not be allowed to compete under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus.


National Hockey League

The National Hockey League announced Monday that it was suspending relationships with business partners in Russia, pausing Russian language social and digital sites and not considering Russia as a location for future events.

The league expressed sympathy for the NHL’s Russian players, saying, “We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position.”


International Ice Hockey Federation

The IIHF suspended all Russian and Belarusian national and club teams from federation competitions of all ages. They also withdrew the hosting rights of the 2023 world junior championships from Russia upon urging from the hockey federations of Switzerland, Latvia and Finland.

The decision affects participation by Russia and Belarus in six IIHF events in 2022, including the men’s and women’s world championships and the men’s and women’s under-18 championships.


Federation of International Skiing

The FIS followed the IOC’s lead, with its council voting unanimously Tuesday to “not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials,” it said in a statement. That follows the Norwegian Ski Federation’s decision to block those athletes from upcoming World Cup events in the country.


World Curling Federation

The WCF’s board is beginning the process of removing Russian Curling Federation entries from the upcoming world championships.

The organization added a new rule that allows the board to “remove a team or Member Association from any WCF event if in the sole opinion of the Board their presence at the event would damage the event or put the safety of the participants or the good order of the event at risk.” Barring any objections in the coming days, the board will remove all Russian curling teams.



The world governing body for volleyball moved the men’s world championships, scheduled for Aug. 26 to Sept. 11. The event was to have been played in Moscow, with group matches in several cities around the country.


World Rugby

The Dublin-based governing body for rugby union, which says it comprises 128 national member federations, stated Monday that it was barring Russia and Belarus from all international and cross-border club play. In addition, Russia’s rugby union organization is suspended from World Rugby membership until further notice.

World Rugby said it was taking action to “protect the rugby family and take a strong stance against the conflict.”



Swimming’s governing body will allow swimmers from Russia and Belarus to compete “as neutrals … under the FINA flag and with the FINA anthem.”


Badminton World Federation

Athletes from Russia and Belarus will be not be allowed to compete in its events, and its tournaments in those countries have been canceled. In addition, the flags of the two countries must not be displayed and their national anthems not played at any BWF events. It is, however, allowing Russian players to compete in two Para badminton tournaments in Spain this week because the athletes are already on-site.


International Biathlon Union

The Russian and Belarusian biathlon federations will send no athletes to the last World Cup and IBU Cup stages this season, the International Biathlon Union announced. Over the weekend, the IBU had said it would invite individual athletes from the two nations to compete as neutral athletes.


World Sailing

Citing the IOC’s recommendation, World Sailing decided Tuesday to suspend Russian and Belarusian athletes from participation in its events. “Both on and off the water, our sport is united by the values of equality, inclusion, respect and fairness,” World Sailing stated.


Formula One

After pulling its Grand Prix race from Russia earlier in the week, Formula One terminated its contract with the race’s promoter, saying the country would “not have a race in the future.”


Canadian Hockey League

The CHL canceled the Canada Russia Series and announced that the date and format for the 2022 CHL Import Draft would be announced “at a later date.”

Cindy Boren and Des Bieler contributed to this report.

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