Russia says it won’t send wrestlers to the Paris Olympics as neutrals

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russia said on Saturday that 10 of its wrestlers who were offered spots at the Paris Olympics as neutrals will refuse to compete.

The Russian wrestling federation said in a statement that its officials, coaches and athletes held a meeting and “came to an unanimous decision — to refuse to participate in the Olympic Games.”

The wrestlers would have been the largest group of Russians in any one sport competing in Paris under the Individual Neutral Athlete program launched by the International Olympic Committee to allow some athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus to compete during the war in Ukraine.

The IOC previously said it invited 10 Russian wrestlers to the Paris Olympics and its website listed nine of them as having agreed to compete, with one who declined.

The IOC didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on Saturday’s statement by the Russian wrestling federation, whether it thought the wrestlers had faced any pressure to refuse, and whether it would support any wrestler who might wish to compete against the wishes of the federation.

The federation said it objected to the IOC’s choice of which wrestlers to invite. It said Russians had qualified up to 16 spots for the Paris Olympics, not 10, and that six of those invited were “far from the status of Russian team leaders.” The federation listed the names of top Russian wrestlers who didn’t get invitations and said the Olympic event would now be devalued.

“Any sane person understands that the status of the Olympic Games as the most significant sporting event is being questioned, and wrestling competitions without Russian athletes will be incomplete, and the champions will not receive the satisfaction of winning the Olympic tournament,” the statement said.

The IOC previously said it would only issue invitations to Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not have ties to the security services or military, and who have not publicly supported the war. They would compete in neutral uniforms and would not compete under the national flag.

Some Russian athletes and officials have favored competing at the Paris Olympics under those conditions, and others have called for boycotts. The wrestling federation had sent athletes to take part in qualifying competitions, unlike some other Russian sports bodies.

Last week, the Russian judo federation said its board had decided not to send any athletes to Paris. Its statement didn’t specify what its athletes thought. The IOC told The Associated Press in an e-mailed statement Tuesday that it was waiting for an “individual reply” from the judo athletes. The IOC website lists one Russian competitor in judo as having accepted an invitation.

As of Sunday, the IOC website listed 23 Russian athletes in seven sports who it said had accepted invitations for the Paris Olympics, including the wrestlers. The 2021 U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev is among six tennis players who the IOC says have accepted.


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