REPORTS
ANALYTICS
INVESTIGATIONS
  • USD87.96
  • EUR94.26
  • OIL85.02
DONATEРусский
  • 448

On July 26, Paris will host the opening ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, the largest international sporting event to take place since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine commenced in February 2022. Russian competitors will be allowed to participate, but only in the capacity of “Individual Neutral Athletes.” While the Russian nationals who are being permitted to take part in the Games were required to pass through a vetting process, publicly denouncing the war is not a prerequisite for Olympic eligibility — merely abstaining from overtly endorsing aggression suffices. Nevertheless, some Russian officials have been critical of the Russian nationals preparing to compete on the world stage, branding them as “homeless persons” or “foreign agents.” For athletes stranded in international isolation due to the conflict, there are only two available options for continuing their careers at the international level: one is competing under a neutral status, while the other involves switching sports citizenship (a step already taken by over a hundred now-former Russians, mostly athletes of individual sports like tennis or chess). In a bid to prevent more of their top-tier athletes from defecting to other countries, Russian authorities are seeking to replace conventional world championships with alternative quasi-international tournaments, often offering substantial prizes. As a result, many Russian athletes are faced with a choice between professional development and material comfort.

Content
  • Sports sanctions after the invasion

  • No war, please: Voices from tennis courts and chess boards

  • Flag change

  • Olympiad substitution: what Russia can offer its top athletes

  • “Homeless,” “refugees,” and “traitors.” Who can still make it to Paris?

RU

Four days before the Russia military launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the team of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) — already participating under a neutral flag due to a series of doping scandals — clinched the last of its 32 medals at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Despite officially being prohibited from using national symbols, the ROC team was permitted to play Tchaikovsky in place of the national anthem and to keep a white-blue-red logo on their uniforms.

The 2022 Games also featured a doping scandal. During a December test, banned substances were discovered in the sample of 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, a top contender for the gold medal. An emergency court ruling permitted Valieva to compete in the individual tournament while her case was reviewed, but the potential violation put the ROC representatives’ first-place finish in jeopardy of being overturned (in January 2024, it was). Then, on February 24th, the fate of a figure skater’s test sample was suddenly far from the most pressing of the Russian team’s problems.

Sports sanctions after the invasion

The repercussions for Russian sports were swift and far-reaching. On the day of the full-scale invasion, numerous leading sports organizations swiftly expressed solidarity with Ukraine and cast doubt on the viability of scheduled competitions in Russia, as well as the participation of Russian athletes in international tournaments.

Mere hours after Russian tanks had crossed the border into Ukraine, St. Petersburg soccer club Zenit faced Seville’s Real Betis in Spain for the return leg of the Europa League playoffs, the continent's second most prestigious football cup. Just a week earlier, the Spaniards had been unveiling club initiatives in St. Petersburg aimed at collaboration with the Russian powerhouse. However, any association with Russian clubs immediately turned toxic for potential European counterparts. Zenit lost the tie and was subsequently eliminated.

In the days that followed, the Finnish hockey club Jokerit withdrew from the KHL Gagarin Cup competition, Estonian Kalev exited the VTB United League basketball, and several national teams opted out of competing in the Freestyle Skiing World Cup stage in Yaroslavl. Additionally, Formula 1 canceled the Grand Prix in Sochi, originally scheduled for September 2022. Meanwhile, EuroLeague Basketball initially postponed and later canceled games involving Russian teams, while UEFA expelled Moscow’s Spartak from the ongoing Europa League, despite the team being on the cusp of the Round of 16. Furthermore, the Russian national team was denied the opportunity to participate in playoff matches for World Cup qualification.

Due to the looming threat of boycott from several countries, both Russian and Belarusian athletes were promptly withdrawn from the Paralympic Games. This decision came despite an initial approval that would have granted them the right to participate under an even more neutral status than Olympians — “neutral Paralympic athletes,” without reference to their respective countries. Those who had already settled into the Paralympic Village were swiftly instructed to vacate China.

The international response did not end there. The May final of the UEFA Champions League in St. Petersburg, the 2023 Ice Hockey World Championship (for which St. Petersburg had constructed the world's largest hockey arena), the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship (slated to be hosted by Novosibirsk and Omsk), along with all other scheduled international tournaments, slipped from Russia's grasp.

On February 28th, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) urged all sports federations to refrain from extending invitations to Russian and Belarusian athletes. The rationale behind this directive was straightforward: if other athletes were opting out of competitions due to the presence of their Russian and Belarusian counterparts, then the root of the problem needed to be addressed. With many athletes vocalizing their intent to boycott, banning Russia and Belarus emerged as the seemingly least disruptive resolution.

However, a few exceptions were granted at the highest level. The National Hockey League (NHL) permitted over 50 players to continue representing their clubs — the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin, founder of the Putin Team movement, among them. The men’s and women’s ATP tennis associations omitted references to the nationality of Russian athletes, but allowed them to compete. And UFC president Dana White openly stood up in support of Russian athletes.

No war, please: Voices from tennis courts and chess boards

Among the ranks of active Russian athletes, only a handful have openly voiced opposition to the invasion of Ukraine. Most notably, tennis players have emerged as some of the strongest dissenting voices, owing in part to their relatively autonomous status within the sporting world. A significant portion of top-tier tennis players reside and train abroad, relying solely on prize money to sustain themselves.

After matches, it is customary for tennis players to leave autographs on camera, sometimes accompanied by messages for fans. Following a victorious match on February 25, 2022, the world's seventh-ranked player, Andrey Rublev, penned a simple yet powerful message: “No war, please.” In subsequent interviews, both Rublev and the world's number two player at the time, Daniil Medvedev, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing that peace reigns supreme above all else.

Meanwhile, the chess community also made its voice heard, with many prominent figures signing an open letter urging an end to the conflict. Among the signatories was Russia's leading chess player, Ian Nepomniachtchi. However, one notable absence was grandmaster Sergey Karjakin, who publicly aligns himself with Russia's policies and its president, Vladimir Putin. Consequently, Karjakin was issued a six-month suspension from the International Chess Federation (FIDE) in March 2022.

Grandmaster Nikita Vitiugov, who in 2023 changed his sporting citizenship from Russian to British, attributes his political activity to his near-complete independence from the Russian Ministry of Sport. “Every chess player is like an individual entrepreneur,” he explained in an interview with The Insider. “Yes, leading athletes receive salaries based on their previous year's results, but in terms of overall income, it's not crucial. Financial independence contributes to independence of thought and action.” While Vitiugov himself did not sign the anti-war letter circulated among his colleagues (citing his lack of sympathy for collective appeals), he unequivocally condemned the hostilities on social media.

Nikita Vitiugov
Nikita Vitiugov

In July 2023, Grandmaster Vladimir Fedoseev announced not only his move to represent Slovenia but also his decision to “no longer want to play for Russia” (a sentiment he had first expressed back in May 2022). Fedoseev’s colleague, Alexey Sarana, who chose not to return to Russia following a March 2022 tournament in Belgrade, explained the decision by expressing his disgust at the actions of the Russian authorities. One of the most successful female chess players in history, Alexandra Kosteniuk, also openly criticized Russia's actions, changing her sporting citizenship to Swiss and declaring that she had no intention of returning to the country.

In March 2022, FIDE offered Russian chess players the opportunity to compete under a neutral flag. This move was seen by many as having at least symbolic significance, as emphasized by Nikita Vitiugov:

“It's hard to walk away from the structure of life, tournaments, everything built through hard work. Especially when you realize that there won't be any practical effect — the catastrophe won't stop, and the transition of just one chess player will not be noticed under the microscope. For me, active professional activity in Russia ended after February 2022. It's important to note: not so much because I would have been actively hindered, but because I personally found it unacceptable to participate in most Russian tournaments as if nothing had happened.”

Vitiugov added that the simplification in the process for changing one’s sporting citizenship arose thanks to the transition of the Russian Chess Federation from a European to an Asian jurisdiction. Following this move, the international federation allowed Russians to change their flag to that of any European country within six months without facing the usual restrictions, such as a two-year quarantine (missing major international tournaments, imposed to complicate the procedure) or a fine (Vitiugov, with his high rating, would have had to pay 50,000 euros).

FIDE offered Russians the opportunity to change their flag without facing the traditional restrictions, which involved either a two-year quarantine or a fine

The situation indirectly affected tennis players as well. Coincidentally, on February 28, 2022, when the neutral status was introduced, Daniil Medvedev became the world's number one for the first time in his career. Medvedev’s agent, Lev Kassil, who represents Russian athletes on behalf of marketing giant IMG, later noted that there were no talks of terminating partnership contracts, even if many brands adjusted their collaboration strategies. “Medvedev became the world's top player when the context noticeably changed. We had joint PR plans with brands to mark this event. Of course, they had to be adjusted,” Kassil said at a sports marketing conference in Kazan. “Additionally, we had collaborated with Tinkoff [a Russian bank]. Daniil was an ambassador for three years, appearing in television and internet ads, hosting master classes, and participating in branch events with the bank's VIP clients. Now, Tinkoff is under sanctions, so our collaboration opportunities are limited.”

Kassil also noted that Russian players could only compete at Wimbledon 2023 after signing a special protocol confirming they did not receive state funding. Even before that, however, Veronika Kudermetova was prohibited from playing with a sponsorship patch on her dress from Russian oil giant Tatneft, as the company was included in Western sanction lists.

Unlike in most sports, nationality currently has minimal significance in tennis. Players from Russia and Belarus can compete at all levels without any formal restrictions. Elsewhere, treatment is selective. For example, freestyle skier Anastasia Tatalina was invited to the US X Games commercial tournament in January 2024. She competed under the Russian flag with all national insignia and took second place in one of the events.

Flag change

No official tally has been made of athletes changing their sporting citizenship, but data from open sources suggests that after February 2022, over a hundred Russian athletes did so. Among the most notable names are swimmer Anastasia Kirpichnikova (now representing France), short track skater Sofia Prosvirnova (Denmark), rower Anna Prakaten (Uzbekistan), equestrian Alexandra Maksakova (Palestine), and figure skating duo Gleb Smolkin and Diana Davis (Republic of Georgia). The transition of the latter pair to the Georgian flag drew particular attention due to their media prominence: Gleb is the son of actor Boris Smolkin, while Diana is the daughter of coach Eteri Tutberidze, known for training Olympic champions including Alina Zagitova and Anna Shcherbakova.

A representative of an international sports agency, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Insider that few athletes make the decision to change their sporting citizenship and move to another country spontaneously. In most cases, it is a step that had at least been considered previously. From a strategic standpoint, it has always been important not to limit career development to the domestic market — both in terms of marketing and the training and living environment.

“If you're a leading artist, a local star, and you're being paid the same salary in your regional ensemble as the first voice of La Scala, some may accept such a prospect. But true stars seek recognition not only in their own country, but also abroad. For building a career, it has always been important to address logistical issues, as it were: previously it was merely desirable, but now it's essential.”

The source believes that amid the ongoing discussions regarding potential participants in the 2024 Summer Olympics, the issue of athletes considering changes in their sporting citizenship will arise more often.

Olympiad substitution: what Russia can offer its top athletes

In March 2022, as the ban from international tournaments proliferated, Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozknyakov unveiled plans for an alternative system of “internal competitions.” These events weren't just about filling the calendar; they aimed to provide financial incentives for top-level athletes who had lost their usual sources of income to stay in Russia.

In August 2023, Vladimir Putin discussed similar initiatives during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, whose portfolio includes Russian sport. Putin proposed creating conditions in which athletes in Russia could earn as much as they would for victories at the Olympics and World Championships.

Russia’s Figure Skating Federation became one of the leaders in organizing internal commercial tournaments. With the media support of Russia’s Channel One, the “Russian Championship” was organized as a replacement for the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix series of events.

In the 2023/24 season, winners of the Grand Prix stages received 500,000 rubles ($5,375) each, while the top performers in the final received a million ($10,750). Although smaller than the pot in international series (Grand Prix winners received around $18,000), the amounts on offer in the Russian competition were comparable to those in many other international events. Similar domestic tournaments emerged or gained increased status in sports such as biathlon and cross-country skiing — both of them disproportionately popular disciplines in Russia.

The Ministry of Sport was obsessed with organizing tournaments purported to be international — and not only thanks to the participation of Belarusians. Political instruments were deployed at all levels. For instance, at the International University Sports Festival (an analogue of the Universiade) held in Yekaterinburg in August of last year, Putin personally invited representatives from Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries. As a result, teams from over 30 states participated in the event. And then there are the World Friendship Games, the BRICS Games, the SCO Games, the CIS Games, and the Legends Challenge Games. This collection of tournaments is intended to create the impression that athletes the world over are willing to compete alongside Russians.

The Ministry of Sport was obsessed with organizing tournaments purported to be international — and not only thanks to the participation of Belarusians

However, even in competitions involving only Russians and Belarusians, there have been mishaps. Biathlon is one of the few sports in which Belarusian athletes compete at the same level as Russians. In March, at the Russian Championships, they won two races as invited guests, but according to the tournament rules, only a Russian athlete could take home the gold medal, and so the visitors were recognized at a separate ceremony. The height of absurdity came when commentator Dmitry Guberniev played the Belarusian anthem for the real winner of the pursuit race, Anna Soli, on his phone during the Match TV broadcast. Soli was visibly less than pleased by the treatment.

At the Russian Championships, Belarusian biathletes won two races, but Russians were still recognized as the winners

The flagship project of the Kremlin’s “sports import substitution” effort is the World Games of Friendship, which are slated to take place in Moscow and Yekaterinburg this September as a form of compensation for Russian athletes who will not participate in the Paris Olympics. Foreign athletes have already been invited, and the director of the games' organizing committee, Alexey Sorokin, claims that dozens of countries have confirmed their participation —however, he has not named any of them publicly. The IOC accused Russia of “politicizing sports,” characterizing the Games of Friendship as unauthorized and calling for a boycott.

At Putin's instruction, Russian winners and medalists of alternative tournaments are set to be equated with the country’s Olympians and provided with corresponding monetary rewards. At the last Olympics, both the summer in Tokyo and the winter in Beijing, Russian gold medalists received 4 million rubles ($42,997) from the federal budget, silver medalists got 2.5 million ($26,873), and bronze medalists took home 1.7 million ($18,273).

Winners and medalists of alternative tournaments are planned to be equated with Olympic medal winners in terms of prize money

The real difference lies in the level of competition. At major global tournaments, Russian medalists had to outperform the strongest competitors from around the world (for example, a total of 405.9 million rubles ($4,363,108) were paid out for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics). In contrast, earning such prizes at the alternative tournament would essentially be at the level of the Russian Championship with a limited pool of competitors.

Financially, this alternative tournament is particularly advantageous for athletes who wouldn't have been able to contend for medals at the Olympic level. Russian Paralympians, among the first to be affected by sanctions, were promised the same prize money at the alternative tournament “We Are Together. Sport” in March 2022 as those for Paralympic medals (4 million ($42,997), 2.5 million ($26,873), and 1.7 million rubles ($18,273) for gold, silver, and bronze respectively). The competitors included representatives from Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

Moreover, if any foreigners attend, they too will receive cash prizes for medals. It is expected that the Friendship Games will cost Russia no less than 26 billion rubles ($279,479,720), according to accompanying documents to the law on the competitions approved by the Federation Council in mid-April. In the federal budget, only 590 million rubles ($6,342,040) are allocated for the event's organization; 3.5 billion ($37,622,270) will be provided by the hosting regions (Moscow and the Sverdlovsk region), 10 billion ($107,492,200) will be raised through bookmaker deductions, and another 12 billion ($128,990,640) will come from “other sources.”

Additionally, the document states that “the total amount of funds needed to motivate and reward participants may amount to about 6 billion rubles ($64,495,320).” Sports.ru reminds that in 2022, before transitioning to the isolation regime, Russia spent 71 billion rubles ($763,194,620) on mass sports.

But even if the Kremlin can compensate its isolated athletes financially, other elements of international competition are more difficult to substitute. Ksenia Polikarpova, a badminton player who participated in the 2020 Olympics for Russia before repatriating to Israel, explained that the prospect of going up against the world’s best is what allows athletes to reach their full potential:

“At the international level, athletes receive an individualized approach to preparation for key tournaments because their performance matters to the entire system. However, when competing only within their country, it doesn't matter who wins —there's no individual focus. The emphasis is on mass participation. While this approach benefits mid-level players, top-level athletes suffer because they can't fully develop their potential without that individualized attention.”

In artistic gymnastics or synchronized swimming, where Russian women have traditionally dominated, internal competition should be enough, according to Polikarpova. However, in most other sports, that’s simply not the case. She compares the current situation to an educational program in which there are no exams to assess progress and, thereby, to understand where improvement is needed. Simply watching live broadcasts of world championships or the Olympics won't achieve this effect. The only way for Russian athletes to reach their potential will be for them to join the national teams of other countries.

In team sports, the level of top clubs has noticeably declined, explains one of the leading managers in the Russian basketball market. He uses the example of the VTB United League: in the absence of European competitions, it has become much harder to attract high-level players:

“For fans, the league has become even more exciting and unpredictable. However, this is because the leading teams have dropped in level, closer to the bottom rung. While Russian clubs at the bottom still pay more on average than clubs in other European leagues, attracting American players who prioritize money, the level of play has suffered. With the current lineups, the league's present leaders would have been merely mediocre teams in the past.”

It will take three or four years to determine whether Russian players stagnate in these circumstances or capitalize on the increased playing time to progress, adds the anonymous representative of the basketball industry. Overall, he notes a growing interest among Russians in moving to European leagues. However, few Russian players are on a level that would allow them to star internationally, and many of them are reluctant to take on more modest roles — and lower salaries — just for the opportunity to play in Europe.

“Homeless,” “refugees,” and “traitors.” Who can still make it to Paris?

There are isolated cases of Russians returning to world-level tournaments in boxing, fencing, judo, and wrestling, but only as neutral athletes. And even this compromise solution is not without controversy.

In August 2023, after a match at the World Fencing Championships, the victorious Ukrainian athlete Olga Kharlan refused to shake hands with her Russian opponent Anna Smirnova. Formally, the bout remained unfinished, and the Russian Smirnova waited for her Ukrainian opponent on the fencing strip for 50 minutes. Kharlan never showed up. After a disciplinary hearing, the Ukrainian was declared the winner of the bout but was disqualified from competing in the tournament for two months. Later, the 60-day ban was lifted, and the IOC guaranteed Olga an Olympic spot even in the event that she failed to qualify through other tournaments.

UEFA made a bold attempt to reintegrate Russian athletes. Last September, the organization announced that it was seeking a way to allow the Russian under-17 national team to compete without using the Russian flag, anthem, or national symbols on uniforms, and without holding any matches in Russia itself. UEFA explained that it did not wish to punish children for the actions of adults. However, just two weeks later, the body reversed its decision after officials “couldn't find a technical solution to allow Russian teams to play.” However, the real motivation for excluding the Russian team was likely the fact that at least 10 countries — Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and England — declared that they would not participate in any tournament that included a Russian team under any conditions.

In March 2023, the IOC first outlined a plan to allow individual Russians to participate in the 2024 Olympics. The discussion centered around the participation of athletes in a neutral status so long as they had not supported the invasion of Ukraine. Under the plan, Russian representatives would not be allowed to participate in team sports.

Other restrictions were also discussed. For instance, those associated with the armed forces or security agencies were not to be admitted. This posed a barrier for athletes affiliated with sport clubs such as CSKA and Dynamo, or who held a military rank without actually participating in military activities. Among the top athletes not passing the filter was three-time Olympic champion from Beijing 2022, skier Alexander Bolshunov, who on February 10, 2022 — two weeks before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine — had been ceremoniously awarded the rank of captain by the head of the National Guard, Viktor Zolotov.

 Alexander Bolshunov
Alexander Bolshunov

Additionally, the IOC made it clear that it didn't want to see those who had expressed support for Putin in any form at the Olympics after the start of the full-scale war. Many medalists from the Tokyo and Beijing Games participated in the patriotic rally “For a World Without Nazism” held at the Luzhniki Stadium on March 18, 2022, the eighth anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. At that time, Olympic heroes like Bolshunov, double champion of Tokyo 2020 in swimming Evgeny Rylov, 16-year-old gymnast Viktoria Listunova, appeared on stage before Putin's entrance.

However, the main topic for discussion in Russia was a requirement that had never actually existed: to condemn their country's actions in Ukraine. As a result of this manipulated debate, Russian officials suggested that athletes who participated in the Olympics risked violating Russian laws about discrediting the country’s military, falsely claiming that in order to be allowed to compete in Paris, athletes would have to sign a document affirming their opposition to the Kremlin’s actions. However, the IOC never demanded such a requirement, and the only document athletes would be compelled to sign was the standard Olympic Charter, which contains a clause about the “peaceful mission of the Olympic movement.” In the spring of 2024, the IOC again clarified that its policy regarding Russian athletes’ participation required only the absence of public support, not condemnation of the invasion.

The IOC's concern is primarily the absence of public support from athletes for the war; there's no requirement for them to condemn the invasion explicitly

The IOC refers to potential participants in the Paris Olympics as individual neutral athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports. To receive an invitation, athletes must undergo selection in their respective sports on par with those of other countries, and then receive a recommendation from a special commission. Only after this commission has personally reviewed all candidates will the number and names of invited athletes to the Olympics be announced, The Insider was informed by the IOC, which declined to specify whether Russians could count on visa support. Typically, national Olympic committees handle such matters centrally, but this is impossible for athletes from Russia and Belarus according to the rules.

Furthermore, even if Russian athletes are allowed to compete, they will not be invited to the opening ceremony. They are prohibited from emphasizing their connection to Russia, even on social media, and any militaristic or nationalistic attributes (such as the letter Z, the colors of the St. George ribbon, or thematic nail polish colors) could result in disqualification. There are also warnings against events like medalists' receptions with the president, which were traditionally held after each Olympics. Now, such actions could lead to sanctions, including the nullification of results and the stripping of medals. Whether athletes can receive money from the state as a prize remains unclear.

{{quote_AqJnocDDR}}

Some associates of Russian athletes have chosen not to travel to Paris. Vasily Titov, the president of the country’s Gymnastics Federation (and an advisor to the chairman of the VTB Management Board), stated that none of the gymnasts wished to compete under neutral status. Valentina Rodionenko, the senior coach of the national team, explained that, “Our countrymen are sacrificing their lives in the Special Military Operation, and we will not agree to perform under such humiliating conditions just for the sake of possibly winning some medal. That would be a real betrayal; we are not traitors.”

Neither Putin nor high-ranking Russian officials have clearly voiced a position with regards to boycotting the Olympics, but commentary from some prominent figures has openly insulted the athletes preparing to compete under a banner of neutrality. On Mar. 26, Irina Viner, a longtime coach of the Russian rhythmic gymnastics team, said that they would look like “a team of homeless persons without a flag, anthem, and fans.” A few days later, Viner stood by her characterization: “A team of refugees! How can one degrade oneself like this? I am sure ordinary people will not forgive athletes who go to the Olympics in a neutral status.” The head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, himself a four-time Olympic champion in fencing, echoed Viner's sentiment, noting that it would be more accurate to call “neutral” athletes “a team of foreign agents.”

However, some authorities have offered a more reassuring tone. For instance, Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, commenting on his colleagues' statements, responded that such “derogatory rhetoric is unacceptable.” And Dmitry Peskov, the president's press secretary, emphasized at the end of March that competing in Paris could be extremely important for the athletes themselves:

“They might not have another chance. Therefore, athletes' decision to go to the Games should be respected. So what if a person competes without our flag? Won't we know that they are our athlete? We will. And if they win, won't we be proud of them, even though they competed without our flag? We will be proud. They themselves become the flag! An Olympic champion becomes the flag immediately. Both the anthem and the flag.”

A sports manager with many years of experience in Russia largely echoed Peskov’s sentiments, telling The Insider that criticism of the country’s Olympians — like that voiced by Viner and Pozdnyakov — only demonstrated the incompetence of those making the negative statements. The figure, who asked to remain anonymous, contrasted the professionalism of Soviet-era sports managers with those occupying analogous positions today, noting that “They skillfully and professionally defended the interests of athletes and the country, while current leaders are unable to do so and are solely concerned about their own future careers and contract extensions.”

With just three months remaining until the Olympic Games open, it remains uncertain how many Russian athletes will risk the potential backlash by choosing to compete against the world’s best in Paris. For those who choose to sit things out, lucrative opportunities await at less competitive tournaments inside Russia.

Subscribe to our weekly digest

К сожалению, браузер, которым вы пользуйтесь, устарел и не позволяет корректно отображать сайт. Пожалуйста, установите любой из современных браузеров, например:

Google Chrome Firefox Safari