Russian and Belarusian judokas can take part as neutrals at this month’s world championships in Doha, the International Judo Federation (IJF) said, prompting Ukraine to pull out of the May 7-14 event in protest.Ukraine has barred its national sports teams from competing in events that include competitors from Russia and Belarus while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues.
“The Executive Committee of the IJF has voted to permit neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in the World Judo Championships 2023 in Doha, Qatar, as Individual Neutral Athletes (AIN),” the IJF said in a statement on Tuesday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month recommended that athletes from the two countries be allowed to return to international competition as neutrals, meaning they compete under a neutral flag with no emblem or anthem.
Athletes must not have links to the Russian military or have made pro-war statements.
The IJF Executive Committee said it had received a list of proposed Russian and Belarusian participants and commissioned independent background checks on the athletes and delegates and any social media interactions regarding pro-war propaganda.
“We strive to ensure that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or background, have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, without discrimination,” the IJF said.
It had said last week that it would let athletes from Russia and Belarus take part in the championships, saying that would enable them to participate in qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The Ukrainian federation alleged on its website that many of the Russian judoka registered for the championships are from the army.
“The majority of the team are athletes who are active servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, part of the army that attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022 and is still waging a brutal full-scale war on our territory, which is shelling Ukrainian cities and civilian homes every day, destroying peaceful citizens, children.”
Following Russia’s invasion, in which Belarus was a staging area for some Russian troops, the IJF stripped Russian President Vladimir Putin of his honorary presidency and cancelled a Grand Slam event in the Russian city of Kazan.