Ukrainian world heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk believes that any medals that Russian athletes win at the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would be “medals of blood, death, tears.”
Usyk’s statement came in response to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) attempts to facilitate the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the upcoming Games. Russian and Belarusian athletes remain barred from competing in international sport due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
However, the IOC is attempting to “explore a pathway” to allow the excluded athletes to compete as neutral competitors, prompting Ukraine’s government, along with several European allies, to threaten a boycott of the event.
Since then, several Ukrainian athletes such as current mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko have spoken out against the IOC’s attempt to reinstate Russian athletes. Usyk shared his thoughts on social media, noting that Russian soldiers have killed Ukrainian athletes who could have competed at the Olympic Games.
“You want to allow Russian athletes to compete at the Olympics,” Usyk said on Instagram. “Russian armed forces invaded our country and kill civilians. Russian Army is killing Ukrainian athletes and coaches and destroying sports grounds as well as sports halls. The medals that Russian athletes are going to win are medals of blood, deaths and tears.”
Russian athletes have avoided being banned outright from the past four Olympics dating back to 2016 in fallout from a state-sponsored doping scandal. At the past three Olympics, they competed as “neutrals” without their national identity. However, several Baltic and Nordic countries continue to insist that Russia should be outright banned from participating in the upcoming Games given the ongoing war.
“It is not possible to parade as if nothing had happened, to have a delegation that comes to Paris while the bombs continue to rain down on Ukraine,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said this week.
Meanwhile, the IOC continues to push back on mounting pressure by claiming that an outright ban would amount to discrimination of Russian athletes.
About the author: Karim Zidan is an investigative reporter for Bloody Elbow focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. His is also a contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian. (full bio)