— Published 22 May 2023

When Russia puts itself out of the game

Paradox. Two months almost to the day have passed since the recommendation of the IOC executive board to the international federations to reinstate the Russian and Belarusian athletes in their competitions. There are now more than a dozen federations that have sided with the Olympic body, while a handful (athletics, badminton, equestrian, surfing, etc.) remain opposed to the return of the two countries. But for the Russian sportsmen, nothing really changed. They remain stuck at the door.

The latest example is the Cuban Weightlifting Grand Prix, an event on the international federation (IWF) calendar, scheduled for June 8-18, 2023 in Havana. The competition enters the qualification process for the Paris 2024 Games.

The press service of the IWF explained it via a communiqué: the Russian weightlifters will not participate in the Cuban event. They would have however the right of it, the executive committee of the International Federation of weightlifting having authorized officially, last May 12, the Russian and Belorussian representatives to find their places on the trays, as individuals and under neutral status.

To be considered eligible, athletes from both countries must complete an individual declaration, where they confirm in writing that they currently have no contractual ties to the armed forces, state security agencies or other structures supporting the war in Ukraine. The document must then be submitted to the IWF for analysis and, eventually, validation for participation in a competition.

So far, nothing very unexpected. All the international federations that have followed the IOC’s recommendation on the Russian and Belarusian issue have taken a similar approach. But according to the IWF, “no signed declaration has been received from athletes or support staff with a Russian passport before the end of the deadline (May 15, 2023)”.

As a result, Russia will be absent from the Cuban Grand Prix in Havana next month, as it has been from all international competitions since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine. It deprives itself of scoring points in the perspective of the Paris 2024 Games.

The IWF insists in its communiqué: “The weightlifters and the staff with Russian passports have lost the possibility to participate in the next IWF event in Cuba. The IWF has given an equal and fair chance to the athletes and support staff of both countries involved to participate in the Grand Prix in Havana. These recommendations are in line with IOC guidelines.”

At the same time, the world authority of weightlifting explains that it has received individual declarations signed by thirteen Belarusian athletes. They have been validated. The weightlifters will be able to participate in the Cuban event under a neutral status. The Belarusian delegation will also have six members of staff, including two coaches and one official.

The Russian Weightlifting Federation did not comment on the announcement of the IWF Executive Committee. It also did not give any explanation for its renunciation to participate in the Grand Prix of Havana, whose doors were however theoretically open to him.

To date, Russia has participated in three world championships since the recommendation of the IOC Executive Board to reinstate its athletes. It was represented under its own colors at the World Boxing Championships, first for women and then for men, the international body of the discipline (IBA) having accepted the Russian boxers well before the reversal of the IOC. Then it sent a team to the World Judo Championships in Doha earlier this month.

In other sports, its return to the international scene remains only theoretical. For the most part, it is slowed or prevented by an eligibility process for international federations that is still in the works, or even only in the planning stage.

In the case of weightlifting, the renunciation seems to be made by the Russians themselves. At less than 450 days of the Games of Paris 2024, it questions.