The FEI’s decision to lift restrictions and allow Russian and Belarusian competitors to return to international competition has been met with concern by a group of European nations.
The FEI board has decided to allow future participation of Russian and Belarusian riders, horses and officials as neutrals. The decision was made at its board meeting on 18 November in Mexico City.
The sanctions prohibiting international competitions from being held in the two nations remain in place.
An FEI press release stated that the board was “updated on the latest position of the International Olympic Committee” during the meeting.
“[This] urged international federations to consider re-admitting Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions under certain conditions, and the changed situation among other international federations,” said the FEI release.
“It was noted that since the protective measures had been introduced over 18 months ago, the situation in other sports has changed and Russian and Belarusian individual athletes have gradually resumed participation in international sport as neutrals alongside Ukrainian athletes without significant disruption to the competitions.
“The board noted that the original protective measures were put in place further to the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee however, it was acknowledged that the measures currently in place may no longer fulfil a protective role and, therefore, had to be reconsidered.”
FEI headquarters has been tasked with establishing conditions and timeline for competitors’ and officials’ return as neutrals. In the meantime, they remain ineligible.
“The board took the opportunity to reiterate its full support to the people of Ukraine, who have suffered and continue to suffer tremendously, and pledged its continued solidarity and support to the Ukrainian equestrian community through the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund,” added the release.
The national federations of Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden made a joint statement during the FEI’s general assembly on 21 November, saying that they “cannot support” the decision.
“The situation with the war in Ukraine has not changed. Therefore, we stand firm in our position, not to open the participation for Russian and Belarusian athletes, horses and officials in international sports,” said the group.
“Now is not the right time to consider their return. The neutrality of Russian and Belarusian athletes, horses and officials cannot be defined, checked and supervised effectively.
“Nordic, Baltic and central Europe national equestrian federations take this opportunity to reaffirm our steadfast support once again with the Ukrainian people and the demand for peace.”
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