Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from most sports competitions for almost a year. The war of aggression against Ukraine blocks their way to duels. But that could change. After the IOC, Germany’s handball president also advocates a return.

DHB President Andreas Michelmann has expressed understanding for the draft of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to return internationally under certain conditions. “If I take it seriously that it’s all about the athletes, I have to separate the athletes from the states,” said the chairman of the German Handball Federation on Deutschlandfunk.

According to Michelmann, sanctions against states are correct, but not against athletes. “But we always put the athletes in the foreground, so I think the IOC’s decision is understandable.” It is then up to the organizers and competition organizers to ensure that neutral athletes are not recognizable as athletes from their home country, said the sports official: “It can’t be that difficult”.

IOC President Bach recently argued in a similar direction. Excluding athletes “solely because of their passport” does not meet the human rights requirements of the Olympic Charter and the United Nations, he said. The umbrella organization of all national Olympic Committees ANOC supports the new course of the IOC. Neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus are expected to be allowed to take part in the Asian Games next fall, which are considered qualifications for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

Should there be a start of Russian athletes as “neutrals” at the 2024 Summer Games, Ukraine is considering a boycott. In view of the situation, this is “an understandable step,” said Michelmann. However, the handball boss described a possible Olympic boycott by Germany – in the event that Russian athletes took part in the Olympics – as a wrong discussion.

(This article was first published on Tuesday, January 31, 2023.)