Russian Teams Must Compete as “Neutral Athletes” During Two-Year IOC Ban

Sanctions remain in place through December 2022.

Olga Kochenova makes a big grab for Russia at EUC 2019. Photo: John Kofi

In December 2020, the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld sanctions against athletes representing Russia at international events, a ban that remains active through December 16, 2022. Because WFDF is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and complies with regulations issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), ultimate is among the sports affected.

WFDF has since emailed the Russian Flying Disc Federation with more details on what this ban means for Russian teams participating in international play over the next two years. According to the email, Russian athletes will still be able to compete at WFDF events during the ban, but will not be able to officially represent the Russian Federation. They must instead join WFDF tournaments as “neutral athletes.”

Conditions given in the email include that “the uniform worn does not contain the flag of the Russian Federation and contains the words ‘neutral athlete.'” Furthermore, the Russian national anthem cannot be played or sung in any official setting, and the Russian flag cannot be flown by any of the athletes at the venue.

“Russian Athletes/Athlete Support Personnel shall participate in a uniform to be approved by the relevant Signatory [WFDF] which shall not contain the flag of the Russian Federation (current or historical), or any national emblem or other national symbol of the Russian Federation,” the email reads. “If the uniform contains or displays the name ‘Russia’ (in any language format), the words ‘neutral athlete’ (or an equivalent) must be displayed in English in a position and size that is no less prominent than the name ‘Russia.’ For the avoidance of doubt, the uniform may contain the colors of the flag of the Russian Federation (current or historical; collectively or in combination).”

For comparison, the email gives an example of how the International Handball Federation is handling these sanctions during the IHF Men’s World Championship, which is currently taking place in Egypt. The delegation of Russian athletes at the tournament are going as the Russian Handball Federation (RHF) rather than as Russia (RUS), and the flag they are using has the logo of the RHF rather than the official Russian flag.

Two-time EuroStar and Russian women’s team player Alisa Tizik told Ultiworld that the Russian athletes are still planning to compete under a neutral name during the ban. She also expressed frustration that the Russian community has to adhere to these sanctions.

“For the ultimate community in Russia, it’s really frustrating, because we never got any support from the government or Olympic committee and have never used doping or been suspected in doing so. But we have to suffer these measures,” said Tizik.

WFDF has canceled or postponed all international events planned for 2021. However, there are still a number of events scheduled to take place during the affected period, including the World Beach Ultimate Championships, where the Russian women’s team won gold in 2017. Russia also took all three bronze medals at the European Ultimate Championships in 2019. Any titles defended or contested during the ban, however, will have to be played for as neutral athletes.

  1. Ravi Vasudevan

    Ravi Vasudevan has served as Ultiworld's European editor and a host of the podcast EuroZone. Emails about EuroZone should go to [email protected]. Ravi played for WPI in the US until 2008. He has been living and playing in Europe since 2009 and has competed at WUGC 2012, WUCC 2014 and WUCC 2018.

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