The UCI adopts a resolution in relation to the Olympic Movement’s position on the subject of sanctions taken against Russia and Belarus

The Management Committee of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) met on 2 and 3 February in Hoogerheide (Netherlands), on the sidelines of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, which are being held in the North Brabant town from 3 to 5 February.

In this context, the UCI Management Committee unanimously adopted a resolution in relation to the Olympic Movement’s position on the subject of sanctions taken against Russia and Belarus following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This resolution is in line with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meetings of 25 January 2023 and 7 December 2022, as well as the 11th Olympic Summit of 9 December 2022.

By way of reminder, the UCI has strongly condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia since the outbreak of hostilities.

The UCI also decided, as of 1st March, to offer its support to the Ukrainian cycling community, alongside the European Cycling Union (Union Européenne de Cyclisme - UEC), committing in particular to welcoming Ukrainian athletes to the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC), its education and training centre located in Aigle, Switzerland. In this context, the UCI provided technical and material support to the Ukrainian Cycling Federation to enable its riders to continue training and racing. Assistance vehicles were also provided for the Ukrainian riders and staff. A credit of 600,000 Swiss francs was made available for this purpose, making the UCI the first International Federation (IF) in the world to support Ukrainian athletes.

Moreover, the UCI immediately supported and transposed into its regulations the IOC’s recommendations to IFs following the flagrant violation of the Olympic Truce and the Olympic Charter for which the Russian and Belarusian States and governments are fully responsible. The sanctions imposed notably imply that no Russian or Belarusian national selections can participate in UCI World Championships, UEC Continental Championships or any other event on the UCI International Calendar, that no event taking place on Russian or Belarusian territory can be registered on the UCI International Calendar, and that no flag, anthem, colours or other identification of these countries may be displayed at events.

From the beginning of the conflict, the IOC and all members of the Olympic Movement, including the UCI, have always considered the Olympic Movement’s principle of political neutrality to be paramount.

However, the Olympic Movement has been faced with a serious dilemma: either ensure the integrity of sports competitions and the safety of athletes, or protect competitions from political influence. Putting priority on the integrity of the competitions and the safety of athletes, the vast majority of the Olympic Movement adopted protective measures that consisted of not authorising the participation of Russian and Belarusian national selections.

After supporting the continuation of the current sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian States and governments, and confirming their full solidarity with Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic community, the participants of the 11th Olympic Summit discussed the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions with a view to the IOC Executive Board meeting of 25 January. In particular, they considered that the measures taken by governments constituted unacceptable interference with the autonomy of sports organisations and their political neutrality, going against the principle that participation in sports competitions should be based solely on the athlete's sporting merits and respect for the rules of sport. They also considered that prohibiting the participation of athletes solely on the basis of their passport contradicted the fundamental mission of Olympic sport to unite the world in peaceful competition.

The need for the neutrality of the Olympic Movement and the unifying and peacemaking role of sport has been reiterated in several recent public statements, including the following:

  • The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution entitled "Sport as an enabler for Sustainable Development " at its 77th session. It recognises the "unifying and conciliatory nature" of major international sporting events and supports the political neutrality of the Olympic Movement and “the independence and autonomy of sport".

  • In a statement, Chair of the G20 Leaders' Summit, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, expressed his support for the political neutrality of sport and emphasised the unifying power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

  • Independent human rights experts mandated by the United Nations to investigate and report on the human rights situation worldwide welcomed in their conclusions of 1st February 2023 the IOC's consideration of the possibility of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in international sports as neutrals, stating " We urge the IOC to adopt a decision in that direction, and to go further, ensuring the non-discrimination of any athlete on the basis of their nationality.”

During the 11th Olympic Summit discussions, participants considered that the situation should evolve, and that consideration should be given to facilitating the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes where possible, with each IF assessing for its own sport whether the reasons justifying the protective measures still exist.

On this basis, the participants at the 11th Olympic Summit unanimously agreed that the IOC would continue to reflect on the participation of athletes who fully comply with the Olympic Charter and sanctions, and that this issue should be discussed during the IOC's consultations with its members, athletes' representatives, IFs (on 17 January) and NOCs. The IOC Executive Board was then to take into account the discussions at the Olympic Summit and the extensive consultations launched during the review of the protective measures for athletes' participation in competitions. All participants in the Olympic Summit committed to follow these revised recommendations in order to ensure the unity of the Olympic Movement in pursuing its unifying mission of peace.

At its meeting on 25 January, the IOC Executive Board studied the conclusions adopted unanimously by the 11th Olympic Summit and the opinions expressed during the consultations. It noted the willingness of the parties consulted to strengthen the sanctions already in place and to continue to support Ukrainian athletes. Furthermore, the vast majority of participants in the consultations expressed their commitment to the unifying mission of the Olympic Movement, to the respect of the rights of all athletes without discrimination, while considering that further study was needed on how athletes could participate in competitions under strict conditions (participation under a neutral banner and full respect of the Olympic Charter in particular). The vast majority of participants in the consultations asked the IOC to further explore the above-mentioned issues through bilateral consultations, as each IF is the sole authority that can govern international competitions in its sport.

On the basis of the above, the UCI Management Committee has decided:

  • To reiterate its condemnation of the aggression of Ukraine by the Russian government and to call once again for a rapid resolution of the conflict in accordance with the provisions of international law.

  • To support the resolution of the IOC Executive Board of 25 January 2023.

  • To continue its support for Ukrainian athletes as it has done since 24 February 2022.

  • To reiterate its commitment to political neutrality.

  • To underline the right of all athletes, regardless of their nationality, to be treated without discrimination, as stated by the experts mandated by the United Nations.

  • More specifically, to support the resolution of the 11th Olympic Summit and the IOC Executive Board of 25 January on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, which should depend only on their sporting merit and their respect for the rules of sport, thus opening the way for their participation, under strict conditions, in UCI international events. This could only take place after a new resolution by the IOC Executive Board.

  • That a possible participation could be envisaged under the following strict measures:

    • athletes would compete as "neutral athletes" and would not represent their state or any other organisation in their country.

    • only athletes who fully respect the Olympic Charter would be able to participate. In other words: firstly, only those who have not gone against the IOC's mission of peace by actively supporting the war in Ukraine would be able to compete; secondly, only those athletes who fully comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and all relevant anti-doping rules and regulations would be eligible. Verification will be carried out for each athlete entered.

  • To confirm that in the meantime, the position taken by the UCI Management Committee on 1st March 2022 concerning the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes remain applicable, notably:

    • the refusal of all applications for the registration of Russian and Belarusian events on the UCI International Calendar;

    • the refusal to register the National Championships of Russia and Belarus on the UCI International Calendar;

    • the refusal of any Russian or Belarusian application to organise UCI events;

    • the ban on display of all emblems, names, acronyms, flags and anthems linked to Russia and Belarus at all events on the UCI International Calendar; the jerseys of Russian and Belarusian National Champions therefore remain prohibited;

    • the special regime allowing riders holding multiple nationalities on 1 March 2022 to change their sporting nationality without restriction on participation.

  • To recall that while the competitions on the UCI International Calendar are in principle open to all athletes of National Federations affiliated to the UCI, countries may only participate in the Continental Championships of their Continental Confederation (i.e. Europe for Russia and Belarus).

  • To call on governments to respect the independence of the Olympic Movement, its positions and its political neutrality, and not to decide which athletes may or may not participate in international competitions solely on the basis of their nationality.

  • To call on governments not to use the Olympic Games and our international competitions as a tool for political sanction, and to respect the fundamental principles of Olympism as defined in the Olympic Charter, including the promotion of a peaceful society, non-discrimination, mutual understanding, the spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play, political neutrality and autonomy.

During the debates, the UEC President expressed the concern within the European Continental Confederation regarding the hostile positions of governments and public opinions of a number of countries, which could maintain restrictions on their respective territories despite the principles of the Olympic Charter and of the autonomy and neutrality of the Olympic Movement. The UEC therefore hoped that the IOC would work with the various governments so that National Federations, organisers and athletes would not be put in difficulty if they had to organise or participate in events that could be open to Russian and Belarusian athletes. They also mentioned their desire to maintain the unity of Europe and that the forthcoming decision on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be a vehicle for dividing European countries.

Finally, the UCI reaffirms its wish that the Olympic Movement be able to act in unity to fulfil its missions and promote peace and friendship between peoples through sport, and to reiterate its support for the initiatives taken by the IOC in this respect.

The next UCI Management Committee meeting will be held from 2 to 5 May 2023 in Cagliari, Italy.