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Should Russian Athletes Be Barred From Competition?


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Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, the top-ranked male tennis player on the earth, is the No. 1 seed at the large Indian Wells tournament set to complete this weekend.

Should he still be playing while his country is invading Ukraine?

Russia’s Alex Ovechkin is some of the gifted hockey players the world has seen. And oh, by the way in which, he’s a longtime supporter of President Vladimir V. Putin. Should Ovechkin still be scoring goals for the N.H.L.’s Washington Capitals?

Should any Russian nationals be allowed on the sports world stage right away?

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In an effort to sentence sports-loving Putin and further isolate his nation, the sports world reacted with remarkable swiftness because the war in Ukraine began. We’ve seen Russia barred from World Cup qualifiers in soccer and its basketball teams cut from international play. Tennis called off its Moscow tournament, and Formula 1 ended ties with the Russian Grand Prix.

Even the normally tentative International Olympic Committee got in the combo by recommending athletes from Russia and Belarus, which has supported the invasion, be barred from sports events, and the Paralympics after some wavering did just that.

However the bans aren’t complete.

Many Russian athletes proceed to prosper right in front of us. Individual soccer players can still take part in European soccer leagues. Ovechkin leads a strong Russian contingent in skilled hockey, and the country’s tennis players proceed to make good livings on the professional tours, though they can’t take part in tournaments with any national identification.

Should these players’ days as competitors outside Russia be numbered — not less than until the war ends and Ukraine sovereignty is restored?

Bruce Kidd thinks so. Kidd represented Canada on the 1964 Summer Olympics as a distance runner, and has long been a human rights leader in sports.

Through the era of South African apartheid, he helped lead the charge for Canadian restrictions on South African athletes, which began taking effect within the Nineteen Seventies.

After I spoke to him last week, Kidd was adamant: Using hockey for instance that might spread globally, he believes Russian nationals within the N.H.L. ought to be barred once the present season ends in June, their immigration visas suspended with the door open for asylum.

Such a move wouldn’t stop the war, after all. But just like the hassle he promoted during apartheid, ending Russian sports participation would buttress economic penalties, deprive Putin the prospect to experience the athletic exploits of Russian players and send a message of support to Ukraine.

“The No. 1 argument is to say, ‘Mr. Putin, the sports community is so outraged by your repeated violations of human rights, your violation of the essential values of sports and fair play, that we’re saying enough is enough,” said Kidd, whose idea has been echoed in similar form by the Ukrainian Embassy in Canada. “We’re showing you and your population our abhorrence.”

Kidd, now the ombudsperson on the University of Toronto, knows detractors will tell him that such a move runs contrary to the principles of a free society. In normal times, he would agree. Not now.

All Russian athletes, he added, are highly visible representatives of the nation they arrive from, “whether or not they prefer it or not.”


May 6, 2022, 1:59 p.m. ET

I are inclined to agree with Kidd. But I’m also wary. Barring individual athletes is more likely to add to the unfounded feeling of grievance shared by Putin and plenty of in Russia. It can also fuel dangerous xenophobia against on a regular basis people of Russian descent.

That eerie silence from most Russian athletes, the refusal to say anything critical after blood doping scandals and now the bombing and killing in Ukraine? Little doubt some stay quiet because they support Putin and wish to avoid controversy.

Some also stay quiet out of well-placed fear for his or her safety and that of family in Russia.

If we bar all sports stars from the aggressive nation on this war, what about those that have taken the chance of speaking against it?

Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments

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Victory Day concerns. Officials across Ukraine issued urgent warnings in regards to the threat of stepped-up Russian missile strikes over the weekend, amid fears that President Vladimir V. Putin might use Russia’s Victory Day holiday on May 9 to accentuate attacks and switch what he calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine into explicit, all-out war.

In Mariupol. Within the ruined city, where fighting continued to rage, an evacuation convoy was dispatched again to the Azovstal steel plant, where about 200 civilians are believed to be trapped underground, together with the last Ukrainian soldiers defending the town. The Russian bombardment of the factory continued overnight.

Russian oil embargo. The European Union unveiled a plan to halt imports of Russian crude oil in the subsequent six months and refined oil products by the top of the yr. If approved as expected, it will be the bloc’s biggest and costliest step yet toward ending its own dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

Consider that Calgary Flames defenseman Nikita Zadorov is one among the few current Russian hockey players to oppose Putin’s aggression. He posted a photograph on Instagram with the words “NO WAR” and “Stop it!”

Dan Milstein, an agent who represents many Russian hockey players within the N.H.L., said Zadorov went public though he knew that he would probably never play for the Russian national team again and that his family might be endangered.

Milstein is Ukrainian. He immigrated to the USA in 1991, because the Soviet Union collapsed. Yet he supports without reservation the Russian nationals who’re his clients: skilled players and a solid of teens playing within the talent-rich Canadian Hockey League, which this month canceled its annual series against Russia in response to the war.

After I spoke to Milstein recently, I could hear fear and anger in his voice.

“I’m sick to my stomach for my home country, for the people there, the youngsters,” he said. “But at the identical time, I’m extremely saddened by the way in which that some people on the earth are treating innocent hockey players, not only the professionals however the teenagers. They’ve done nothing but work their tails off for various years, for a likelihood, for a dream, to play in one of the best league on the earth. And now they’re being potentially denied the chance because they were born in Russia.”

“Going after them,” he added, “goes after the mistaken guys.”

There are not any winners here. No easy answers in a situation that feels as dire as any the world has faced in a long time.

Russian athletes are individuals, like us all, stuffed with dreams and fear and courage.

But also they are symbols — potent representatives of a nation engaged because the aggressor in a heinous war. Why are we letting any of them play?

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