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Coe says return of Russian athletes ‘unlikely’ before Paris Olympics

Budapest (AFP) – World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said Thursday it was “unlikely” that track and field athletes from Russia and Belarus would be welcomed back to competition before next year’s Paris Olympics.

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All Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from competition “for the foreseeable future” since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. That includes the option of competing as a neutral.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, I follow world events in the same way that you all do,” Coe told journalists after his re-election as head of track and field’s world governing body.

“Our position is very clear. The Council has made that position clear. The new Council — and I’m not going to speak for them in advance — but I would be very surprised if there is any shift in that position.

“We have certainty and we’ve done it for reasons of integrity of competition.”

Coe added: “We will of course monitor that situation.

“We have risk committees, we have working groups that will always be wanting to be across that and what might the circumstances look like if there’s any shift in the situation but I have to say that looks unlikely at the moment with where we are with events in Ukraine.”

International sports bodies are taking wildly varying stances on allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete while the war in Ukraine continues.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is yet to make a decision on whether Russians can compete at the Paris Olympics next year but it has recommended they return to competition.

That stance has received a mixed welcome from federations, with Coe’s World Athletics among the most stringent of opponents to their return should the conflict continue.

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