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Gymnasts from Russia and Belarus are banned indefinitely from international competition

From left, Vladislava Urazova, Angelina Melnikova, Viktoria Listunova and Lilia Akhaimova celebrate after winning the team gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)
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Russian and Belarusian gymnasts and officials are banned from international competition indefinitely, the sport’s global governing body announced Friday, citing “the massive escalation of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.” The International Gymnastics Federation’s decision, which takes effect Monday, follows numerous other major sports that have barred Russian and Belarusian athletes from events.

Some gymnasts from Russia and Belarus are competing this weekend at a World Cup event in Doha, Qatar, the last major international competition in which they will be allowed to compete. Russia’s Viktoria Listunova, who was part of the gold medal team at the Tokyo Olympics, won the bars at this competition, followed by fellow Russian Maria Minaeva in second. Ukraine’s Daniela Batrona won the bronze medal on the apparatus. The gymnasts were recognized in separate medal ceremonies.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) previously prohibited Russian and Belarusian flags and anthems and said no FIG-sanctioned events could take place in these countries. But athletes from Russia and Belarus still were allowed to participate in international competitions. A week later, after the International Olympic Committee recommended that federations ban these athletes from events, the FIG changed its stance.

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“The FIG would like to stress that these exceptional and emergency measures are decided and issued in view of the above-mentioned extraordinary circumstances,” the governing body said in a statement Friday, noting the IOC’s recommendation. “They constitute preventive measures aimed at preserving the integrity of Gymnastics, the safety and integrity of members and all athletes and participants, and at fighting against all forms of violence and of sports injustice.”

Russia is a perennial power in gymnastics. Athletes representing the Russian Olympic Committee won the team gold medal in the men’s and women’s competitions last year at the Tokyo Olympics. Angelina Melnikova, the all-around bronze medalist in Tokyo, won three medals at the world championships held in October, including the all-around gold.

The FIG also governs rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline, the other Olympic disciplines of the sport. At the Tokyo Games, the ROC finished second in the group event in rhythmic gymnastics and Dina Averina of Russia won the silver in the individual competition. Ivan Litvinovich of Belarus won the gold medal in men’s trampoline.

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