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Mariya Lasitskene: Olympic champion calls for IOC to lift sanctions on Russian athletes

Mariya Lasitskene
Mariya Lasitskene is the reigning Olympic and world champion in high jump

Russian Olympic high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene has called on the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to end sanctions against Russian athletes.

The IOC recommended a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Your decision did not stop the war but gave birth to a new one,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter.

“You say you made this decision for our safety but it’s not true.”

Lasitskene, who won gold at Tokyo 2020, has been banned from international competition since World Athletics excluded “all athletes, support personnel and officials from Russia and Belarus” from World Athletics Series events, following the IOC’s recommendation.

The three-time world champion also missed out on the 2016 Olympics in Rio when Russia were punished for state-sponsored doping.

She won her 2017 and 2019 world titles competing as a neutral athlete and represented the Russian Olympic Committee in last year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics.

“Of the last seven years, in total, I have not had the opportunity to compete in international competitions for about four,” Lasitskene wrote.

“World Athletics use my Russian passport as the trump card at every opportunity. And you saw no issues with this. Now they are doing this again, but directly at your instigation.”

The 29-year-old accused the IOC of preferring to know “nothing of Russian athletes’ opinions and how our athletes live in light of recent events in Ukraine”.

“My main colleagues in the high jump sector are Ukrainian girls. And I still don’t know what to say to them or how to look into their eyes,” she added.

“They and their friends and relatives are experiencing what no one human being should ever have to feel.”

A number of sport federations have taken the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, officials and teams from international events.

Lasitskene, who has been critical of Russia’s sporting governing bodies in recent years, said Bach and the IOC had chosen the “easiest solution” in banning athletes because of their citizenship.

“I suspect that you will not have the courage or the dignity to put an end to the sanctions against Russian athletes,” she said.

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