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).
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.
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 road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.