Opinion: Putin has made Russian athletes his political tools. Banning them is the right thing to do
A few weeks later, Bach’s declaration already sounds like the last gasp of an outdated ideal. For many years, the IOC and other governing bodies of world sport have insisted that their competitions remain separate from international politics. But in many cases, this supposed neutrality ended up serving the interests of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who used sport to cement his position at home and portray himself as a respectable world leader, even attacking Russia’s neighbours.
While the international governing bodies of various sports are now positioning themselves as principled leaders, many of the actions taken against Russia have come in response to their sport’s outrage.
Politically, removing Russia from international sports is part of a larger strategy to isolate Russia from international finance, trade and travel. And it prevents Putin from using one of his most effective tools.
After being embodied for years by the Russian leader, the “sportocrats” of the world now look like stooges. Their insistence on the separation of sport and politics rings hollow.
Athletes also remind us that sport must be seen in its proper perspective. It seems that the leaders of international sports organizations often have a unique vision of their mission. They deflect any challenge to the prestige and profits generated by their tournaments, and they cooperate with any world leader willing to advance their sport, no matter how heinous that leader’s actions. In their calls to exclude Russia from international sports, athletes rightly point out that the games cannot be sealed off and watched in a vacuum, separate from world events. It is not possible to watch Russian troops bomb Ukrainian cities and then allow Russian athletes to represent their country in a soccer or football match.