PARIS: No fencers from Russia or Belarus will take part in the Paris Olympics after those eligible under a neutral banner did not enter for European qualifiers, acco­r­ding to the European Fencing Confederation.

“There are unfortunately no Russian or Belarusian athletes,” EFC president Giorgio Scarso told reporters on Tuesday. “The date for enrolment has passed. The reason for their absence is not known, there was no official declaration of letter to explain it.”

Russia’s fencers last year rejected the “proposed return format” set out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to come back to international competition, raising the possibility they would boycott Olympic qualifying events.

Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdniakov, a four-time Olympic sabre champion, had threatened a boycott after some athletes — including his own Olympic gold medal-winning daughter Sofia — were barred from competing.

The IOC had offered Russians the chance of competing in Paris as neutral athletes without the national flag or anthem as long as they did not publicly support the war against Ukraine and were not employed by the military or security services.

“No Russian fencers will go to these Olympic Games,” Russian fencing federation head Ilgar Mame­dov said. “We have made our principled position clear: we are not going to divide our team into those who please the West and those who, in their opinion, are ‘bad Russians’.”

Six places at Paris Games are up for grabs at the European qualifying event in Differdange, Luxe­mbourg, over the weekend.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

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