Olympics: Russians, Belarusians to participate as neutrals

STORY: The International Olympic Committee said on Friday that Russians and Belarusians that qualify for the Paris Games next year will be able to compete as neutrals.

The IOC said neutral athletes will only be able to participate in individual sports... teams won't be allowed.

And neither will flags, emblems or anthems.

Athletes who actively support the war in Ukraine... or are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military are not eligible.

Athletes from the two countries had been banned from international competition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

In March, the IOC handed down a set of recommendations for individual sports federations to allow competitors from the two countries to return.

They’ve done so in most events.

But Athletics is the biggest sport of the Games...

... and World Athletics President Sebastian Coe says his federation isn’t budging:

“You may well see some neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus in Paris. They just won't be in Athletics.” //

“We have a fixed position. That position hasn't altered.”

Ukraine slammed the IOC's decision as "shameful" and says it's still mulling over whether its athletes will compete in Paris.

"So for me, it's completely madness…”

Ukrainian skeleton athlete Vladyslav Heraskevych says he disagrees with the IOC's decision.

“Let's pretend that I'm a German or Austrian athlete and I'm competing and I win a medal and a Russian guy is second. IOC make photo and then this photo, Russian propaganda used this photo in some advertising. I don't want to be used in Russian propaganda.”

Russian officials reacted with anger as well.

Its sports minister said the conditions for participation are “discriminatory.”

Out of 4,600 athletes who have qualified for the Games so far... eight are Russians and three hold Belarusian passports.

More than 60 Ukrainians have qualified.

The IOC also said no government or state officials from Russia or Belarus will be invited or accredited for next year's Games.

But athletes, it says, should not be punished for the actions of their governments.