Sporting sanctions against Russia and Belarus must remain, says the president of the International Olympic Committee.
But Thomas Bach says sport faces a “big dilemma” in ensuring athletes do not suffer as a result.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the IOC called on sports federations to exclude athletes, officials and teams from Russia and Belarus from international events.
However, Bach says the “unifying mission of sport” must be restored.
“We are a sports organisation with our mission to be unifying factor, we are about to explore ways how we can come back to this unifying mission, and how we can avoid sport being fully politicised and being taken over by political interests, because these are two different areas of our society,” he said.
Bach added: “The sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian state and government must firmly remain in place.
“These sanctions were imposed because of the breach of the Olympic truce, which means also a breach of the Olympic charter.”
Following the invasion, Russia and Belarus were banned from March’s Winter Paralympics – though athletes were allowed to compete under a neutral flag – while Russian football clubs and national teams were suspended from all competitions by Fifa and Uefa.
Further sanctions were announced across other sports, including rugby, Formula 1, cycling and swimming, while in tennis, Russian and Belarusian tennis players were banned from playing at Wimbledon this year.
However, Bach – speaking at the conclusion of the IOC’s executive board meeting in Lausanne – said the Committee was conscious of the impact such sanctions have on the athletes.
“The sanctions and solidarity, there was no big debate but we had a debate then which took several hours about the athletes and what the impact of this war is on the athletes,” he said.
“I will never get tired enough to repeat, to make it clear all over again, that this question of the participation of athletes is very different to the question of sanctions for their government.
“The position of the Olympic Movement was always, is and remains, that athletes cannot be punished for acts of their government as long as they do not contribute to it or support it.
“Therefore the question of athletes participation was always a protective measure, and not part of the sanction, to safeguard the integrity of international sports competition and to ensure safety of athletes from these two countries.”