Swiss threaten to boycott swim worlds if Russians compete
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Swiss swimming federation has threatened to boycott this year’s world championships if the sport’s governing body allows Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete.
FINA, the Switzerland-based body that governs swimming, has so far been reluctant to ban Russian athletes following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The body instead decided they can compete at the worlds in Budapest, Hungary, without their national flag. Belarus, an ally of Russia, has also had its athletes and teams sanctioned in the same way.
Swiss Aquatics said Tuesday it was “currently not appropriate” to take part in the two-week event in June even if athletes from Russia and Belarus compete under a neutral flag.
The Swiss team cited “safety and fairness” for athletes.
FINA has been trying to help Russians stay in competition even though athletes from the country have been banned by the governing bodies of most Olympic sports.
On Tuesday, Russia lost an appeal against its ban from European soccer.
FINA, however, said last week it “remained opposed to a blanket ban of all athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus.”
The policy was supported by “an overwhelming majority” of the body’s athletes’ commission, FINA said. The athletes’ commission is chaired by two-time Olympic gold medalist Penny Heyns, who grew up in Apartheid-era South Africa when its athletes were mostly excluded from international events.
Instead, FINA pledged to review “concerns about the safety of athletes and the viability of events” on a case-by-case basis.
Swiss Aquatics responded in a statement that it supported “safe, fair and doping-free sport.”
“In the circumstances, Swiss Aquatics considers that the safety and fairness of athletes participating (in Budapest) cannot be guaranteed if athletes from Russia or from Belarus participate,” it said.
Swiss swimming had its most successful modern Olympics last year in Tokyo by winning two bronze medals.
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