— Published 2 February 2023

Gene Sykes in favour of IOC conditions

A very diplomatic start for Gene Sykes. The former chief executive of the Los Angeles 2024/2028 Games bid, who was elected president of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) last year, has expressed US support for the IOC’s willingness to explore a pathway for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition. He did so in a letter sent last week to athletes and other members of the US Olympic movement. “After listening to many athletes and stakeholders across the United States, we recognise a genuine desire to compete against the best athletes in the world, but only if it can be done in a way that ensures safe and fair competition,” wrote Gene Sykes, whose letter is reproduced by the Associated Press. The US leader acknowledged that the issue is “incredibly complex“. And it has been made even more confusing, he said, by its media coverage. While reiterating the USOPC’s continued solidarity with Ukraine and its athletes, Sykes suggests that “the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games” should prevail. In other words, all athletes should participate, without political discrimination. But the American insists: “We have encouraged the IOC to continue to explore a process that would preserve existing sanctions, ensuring that only clean, neutral athletes are invited to compete. This process will require careful management. It will require additional efforts to gain the trust of our community.” As a reminder, the USOPC was invited by the IOC to participate in its Olympic Summit in early December 2022 in Lausanne, along with two other National Olympic Committees, Russia and China. A meeting during which the possibility of reinstating Russian and Belarusian athletes in view of the Paris 2024 Games was discussed.