IOC on Ukrainian Olympian: 'The field of play ... is not the place for any kind of statement'

2022 Beijing Olympics - Skeleton - National Sliding Centre, Yanqing District, Beijing, China - February 11, 2022. Vladyslav Heraskevych of Ukraine holds a sign with a message reading 'No war in Ukraine'. IOC/OBS/Handout via Reuters
2022 Beijing Olympics - Skeleton - National Sliding Centre, Yanqing District, Beijing, China - February 11, 2022. Vladyslav Heraskevych of Ukraine holds a sign with a message reading 'No war in Ukraine'. IOC/OBS/Handout via Reuters

The International Olympic Committee has reached out to Ukrainian skeleton slider Vladyslav Heraskevych about his "No War in Ukraine" sign during the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Heraskevych, who lifted the sign in between runs on Friday as his country faces a tumultuous time, was contacted by the Olympic governing body with a reminder that “the field of play and podium is not the place for any kind of statement.” He didn't repeat the protest in his final run and won't be punished for it.

IOC spokesperson Mark Adams spoke for the first time on Sunday about the incident.

“When that case occurred the night before last we spoke to the team and athlete and explained the situation to him,” Adams said on Sunday. “In his final run he ran without that. He understood. We all want peace but everyone has agreed, and athletes agreed, the field of play and podium is not the place for any kind of statement.”

The 23-year-old Heraskevych's message stems from rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, as Russian troops approach and settle near Ukrainian borders. Though Russia denies any intention of invading Heraskevych's home country, global entities fear imminent conflict amid their burgeoning military presence.

The IOC’s rule 50, which forbids athletes from engaging in any form of political protest at the Olympics, was revised prior to last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo. Athletes are still precluded from espousing political beliefs on the podium and during medal ceremonies, but they can raise social issues at press conferences and while in competitive action, so long as it does not impede on their fellow competitors.

“For us it (keeping politics out of the Games) is axiomatic. It is the fundamental core to what we do. The message was understood and not repeated,” Adams continued.

Though no other athletes followed suit with visual protests, the Ukrainian Olympic Committee supported Heraskevych, urging a “unanimous call for peace.”

“The Olympic Team of Ukraine ... expresses a unanimous call for peace together with (our) native country,” the Ukrainian Olympic Committee wrote on social media. “Being thousands of kilometers away from the Motherland, mentally we are with our families and friends.”

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