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Russian and Belarusian cyclists to be allowed to race at world championships and other UCI events as “neutrals”

The governing body’s move comes just over a month after the IOC reversed its ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competition – though sanctions against teams remain

The UCI has followed the lead of the International Olympic Committee by reversing its ban on Russian and Belarusian riders taking part in the world championships, as well as World Cups, Nations Cup, and other UCI events – though sanctions will remain in place against teams registered in those countries.

In March last year, the UCI banned teams representing Russia or Belarus at national level, as well as trade teams registered in the two countries, from all its sanctioned events following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The ban led to the demise of the second-tier Gazprom-RusVelo team – who are in the process of appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the UCI’s decision – while high-profile Russian riders such as Aleksandr Vlasov were prevented from racing at last year’s world championships (though Bora-Hansgrohe pro Vlasov was allowed to continue to compete in other events as the ban did not extend to riders on foreign teams).

> UCI bans Russian and Belarusian national teams after invasion of Ukraine

However, the governing body’s new changes, made at a meeting of its management committee in Sardinia this week, mean that riders from Russia and Belarus will once again be able to compete at UCI-sanctioned events, provided they register as “neutral individual athletes”.

According to the UCI, this will mean that they will race without “any involvement or association with the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus, their National Federation or National Olympic Committee”.

Similar to the IOC’s change in March, these neutral riders will not be allowed to wear or associate themselves with the flags, emblems, or anthems of Russia or Belarus, while anyone who has voiced their support for the war in Ukraine will remain banned from competition.

Riders have to apply to race as a neutral at the upcoming world championships in Glasgow or in World Cup events, and can begin competing on 1 June.

The sanctions remain in place against teams registered in Russia or Belarus, as well as sponsorship from those countries and applications for hosting UCI events.

> Ineos rider Pavel Sivakov switches nationality from Russian to French

In the press release, the UCI reiterated its “firm condemnation of the aggression of Ukraine by the Russian government, supported by the Belarusian government, and to call once again for a rapid resolution of the conflict in accordance with the provisions of international law”, while also restating its “commitment to political neutrality” and the right of all athletes “to be treated without discrimination”.

As part of its attempts to enable Ukrainian cyclists to take part in international events and to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympics, the UCI’s management committee also decided to continue its support of the Ukrainian Cycling Federation by making a new financial contribution of 100,000 Swiss Francs (£90,000), 20,000 of which has been donated by the European Cycling Union.

The UCI will also host Olympic hopefuls from Ukraine at its World Cycling Centre in Aigle, while providing further material and technical support to enable riders to continue training and racing.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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bobrayner | 1 year ago

Given cycling's long hard struggle to clean up the stain of doping, which relies on a long-term pattern of at-home testing rather than just "on race day", is it really wise to trust athletes whose own government has run a systematic doping campaign and used its own testers to cover it up?

We know we can't trust a clean test result from Russia.

Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

Without delving into the moral complexities of whether it's right or wrong to sanction Russian/Belarussian athletes in this way, how on earth can the UCI claim that they have a “commitment to political neutrality” and that all athletes have a right “to be treated without discrimination” whilst at the same time banning athletes from a particular country from being able to wear their country's colours or carry its flag, sing their country's national anthem or even be identified as coming from said country on TV graphics, and banning them outright if they express support for their country's actions? If the UCI believe their sanctions are appropriate and commensurate then by all means apply them, but in doing so they are quite clearly not remaining politically neutral, and they are quite clearly discriminating against a particular group of athletes. They should have the courage of their convictions and not attempt to whitewash their decisions with talk of neutrality and lack of discrimination when it's blatantly nonsense.

Paul J | 1 year ago

If we're going to blame private individuals for the actions of their government when it comes to illegal, aggressive war making, and ban them from international sports, then USAsians and UKians should be banned too.

brooksby replied to Paul J | 1 year ago

Paul J wrote:

If we're going to blame private individuals for the actions of their government when it comes to illegal, aggressive war making, and ban them from international sports, then USAsians and UKians should be banned too.

Isn't it also to do with the possible financial backers of the Russian athletes and whether those persons are on international sanctions lists?

Paul J replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
1 like

British Cycling gets state funding, by a state that has in the past helped instigate and participated in - and no doubt will again in future - illegal and aggressive wars.

Do we want to go down this path, of politicising sport to the extent we hold individual athletes responsive for their state's policies?

Should we ban Israeli athletes? What about states with reprehensible laws around, say, homosexuality?

Where do we go with this, if we are consistent and even-handed with it? Or is this simply another tool for the dominant geo-political interests to wield in their games of real-politik?

Safety | 1 year ago

Disgraceful decision by the UCI.

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