Six ways the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaken the sports world

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked actions from athletes, sports leagues and organizations across the world.

From high-profile protests to Russian teams being barred from competition, the invasion has impacted a number of athletics globally.

Here are six notable ways the attack on Ukraine has shaken up sports.

Russia banned from World Cup, other competitions

A number of international sports leagues have said they will boycott matchups with Russian teams and there have been growing calls to ban individuals from competitions.

Belarus, a Russian neighbor that has contributed to the Ukrainian invasion, has also faced calls to be banned.

The International Olympic Committee on Monday said Russia had breached the “Olympic Truce,” and recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred from competitions.

The organization also called to move or cancel any sporting events in the two countries.

FIFA, the global soccer governing body, and FIBA, which oversees international basketball, have said Russia will be banned from competing. FIFA’s move disqualifies the 2018 World Cup host from the 2022 World Cup. 

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people,” FIFA said in a statement. 

The Union of European Football Associations announced it would move its scheduled Champions League final from Russia.

International figure skating and skiing organizations have also banned Russian athletes from competing, citing IOC recommendations.

But, as the call for bans grows, some organizations are allowing Russian athletes to compete.

The International Tennis Federation cracked down on Russian and Belarusian teams but said it will allow individuals to compete.

Paralympics refuses to ban Russian athletes

On Wednesday, the International Paralympic Committee broke from the IOC and announced it would allow Russian athletes to compete at the Winter Games in Beijing, but said results will not count in the medal table.

The committee also said an “extraordinary” general assembly is expected to vote on whether to suspend or terminate the membership of the Russian and Belarusian Paralympic committees.

“IPC to host extraordinary General Assembly in 2022 to vote on whether to make compliance with the Olympic Truce a membership requirement and whether to suspend or terminate the membership of the Russian Paralympic Committee and Belarus Paralympic Committee IPC will not hold any events in Russia or Belarus until further notice,” the committee said in its statement. 

Top Russian stars speak out against the invasion 

A number of top Russian athletes have publicly spoken out against the assault on Ukraine.

The world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, Daniil Medvedev, spoke out while playing in an event in Mexico, saying tennis is “not that important.” 

He stopped short of condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin directly but, on Sunday, tweeted a statement calling “for peace in the world, for peace between countries” for the sake of children.” 

One of Russia’s top soccer stars, Fedor Smolov, took to social media shortly after the invasion began, posting “No to war!!!” on Instagram.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a female tennis star, shared a similar sentiment this week. 

“I have represented Russia all my life,” she wrote. “This is my home and my country.”

However, she said, “Personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence…Stop the violence, stop the war.”

Ovechkin stops short of condemning Russia’s actions 

While the number of Russian athletes speaking out against the military action continued to grow, comments from Washington Capitals star and one of the most recognizable Russian athletes in the world, Alexander Ovechkin, received backlash.  

Speaking to reporters a day after the invasion began, Ovechkin, who has been a notable supporter of Putin, said he wants peace, but added that he is Russian.

“I’m Russian, right? It’s not something I can control. It’s not in my hands. I hope it’s going to end soon and there’s going to be peace in both countries. I don’t control this one,” Ovechkin said.  

“Please, no more war,” said Ovechkin. “It doesn’t matter who’s in the war, Russia, Ukraine, different countries. I think we live in a world where we have to live in peace and a good world.” 

Ovechkin’s refusal to call out his government or Putin drew rebukes from others in the hockey community. 

Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek, a Czech Republic native, called Ovechkin a “liar” and urged the National Hockey League to suspend all Russian players.

“The NHL must immediately suspend contracts for all Russian players!” Hasek tweeted on Saturday.

Hasek took a specific shot at Ovechkin, calling him an ableist for Putin.

“What!? Not only an alibist, a chicken s—, but also a liar! Every adult in Europe knows well, that Putin is a mad killer and that Russia is waging an offensive war against the free country and its people,” Hasek wrote. 

On Monday, the NHL shared their concern, saying the conflict has put Russian players and their families “in an extremely difficult position.” 

Ukrainian boxing champs join defense forces 

Three highly decorated professional boxers from Ukraine have joined the forces fighting against Russia. 

Hall of Fame heavyweight Vitali Klitschko, who is the mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, said that he would fight in the Ukrainian army.

“We stand in front of one of the biggest and strongest armies in the world,” Klitschko said. “But we have to defend our families, defend our countries, our cities and we don’t have another choice. I don’t have another choice, I have to do that … I will be fighting.” 

Klitschko’s brother, Wladimir, who is also a hall of famer, said he would also join the fight, writing on LinkedIn, that Putin “makes it clear that he wants to destroy the Ukrainian state and the sovereignty of its people.”

He called for Western countries to support Ukraine, saying “international law and democracy are under attack, that war is the greatest evil and that life is sacred.” 

A third Ukrainian boxing great, Vasiliy Lomachenko, also announced he will fight for his country.

Lomachenko, an Olympic gold medalist, on Sunday shared a picture of him dressed in army gear, saying he will serve as part of the defense. 

Pressure on Russian Oligarchs 

Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich announced on Wednesday that he plans to sell his share in English Premier League club, Chelsea, as he faces possible sanctions from the British government.

“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners,” Abramovich said in a statement. 

Abramovich said that the sale of the soccer club will not be fast-tracked and will follow due process, adding he will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. 

“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the Club in this manner. However, I do believe this is in the best interest of the Club,” Abramovich said. 

He added that some proceeds from the sale of the team would go toward “victims” of the conflict.

Abramovich’s announcement comes days after he said he will hand over “stewardship” of his soccer club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.

Tags athletes Boxing Chelsea IOC oligarchs Paralympics Premier League Russia soccer Ukraine Vladimir Putin World Cup

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