IOC stance on Russians, Belarusians ‘confusing’: Swiatek

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The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendation to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to international competition as neutrals is “confusing” because Ukraine is still under attack, tennis world number one Iga Swiatek said.

The IOC sanctioned Russia and Belarus after Moscow launched the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 but is now eager to see athletes come back across all sports and have a chance to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Russia says it is prosecuting a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russian and Belarusian tennis players have been competing on the tours and at the other Grand Slams as neutrals since March last year.

“Right now the situation is pretty complicated because at the beginning of the war there weren’t many decisions one way. At first they (Russian and Belarusian athletes) were kind of banned in other sports, not in tennis,” Swiatek told reporters on Thursday.

“Then it changed a little bit and they are starting to be allowed, which is pretty confusing because I feel nothing changed in Ukraine and the cities are still under attack.

“Many Ukrainian athletes are fighting in the war and losing their lives. It’s heartbreaking.”

Poland’s Swiatek, who wears a Ukrainian flag on her cap during matches, has previously said tennis missed an opportunity to send a strong message to Moscow by failing to impose a blanket ban on players from Russia and its ally Belarus.

“I just hope no matter what the decisions is going to be, the sport will be able to kind of put people together and not separate them,” Swiatek added.

“But there are tensions, so it may be tricky and hard to do, but you know me as just one athlete, I don’t have full influence on what’s going on, so we kind of have to just compete (at) our best no matter what the circumstances are.”