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IOC gives 14 Russians, 11 Belarusians neutral status for Paris Olympics in first round of decisions

The IOC approved 14 athletes from Russia and 11 Belarusians with neutral status to compete at the Paris Olympics in a first list from some sports published Saturday.

Five sports — though not tennis, swimming or judo — were assessed by an International Olympic Committee panel judging if athletes had expressed support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine or had ties to sports clubs linked to the military or state security services.

Cycling, gymnastics, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling were assessed first and lists of athletes from other Olympic sports are likely to follow within days.

Athletes approved Saturday include the defending Olympic champion in men’s trampoline, Ivan Litvinovich from Belarus, and Russian cyclist Aleksandr Vlasov, who has three career top-10 finishes in Grand Tours.

It is still unclear how many Russian athletes will compete at the Olympics being held from July 26-Aug. 11. The IOC already barred them from taking part in the opening ceremony parade of athletes scheduled on boats sailing along the River Seine.

No athletes were approved by the IOC in taekwondo, where the Russian team took two of the eight gold medals in Tokyo three years ago by Vladislav Larin and Maksim Khramtsov.

“In some sports, the number of eligible athletes may be lower than the number of earned quota places,” the IOC said in a statement.

Russia and Belarus are banned from team sports at the Paris Olympics because of the war on Ukraine.

Individual athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports have been allowed to compete as neutrals in qualifying events in most other sports, then apply for entry to the Olympics.

Ukrainian athletes including Olympic medalists and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have urged IOC and sports leaders to impose a blanket ban on all Russians. Track and field did that, and soccer bodies FIFA and UEFA excluded Russian teams from international play within days of the invasion starting in February 2022.

The two-stage vetting process for neutral status goes through sports governing bodies, then the IOC panel before appeals are possible at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Further conditions imposed on the athletes include competing as Individual Neutral Athletes, with the acronym in French AIN, without the Russian flag — and in uniforms that are not in its colors of red, white and blue.

The Russian anthem is also barred, replaced with music commissioned by the IOC, and medals they win should not be included in any table.

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/summer-olympics

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press