(Prague) Russian and Belarusian athletes must loudly condemn the war in Ukraine or be kicked out of the Paris Olympics in 2024, former star goalkeeper Dominik Hasek told The Associated Press on Friday.
Hasek, who won gold with the Czech Republic at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, added that without it he was sure their presence in Paris would be a “huge publicity campaign for the Russian invasion”.
The former NHL player was highly critical of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendation to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral banner.
“Everyone knows where these athletes come from,” Hasek said in an interview with the AP. They would represent the aggressor, a war launched on imperial motives and all the crimes and murders attached to it. »
He went on to mention that it would be the equivalent of supplying tanks, fighter jets and ammunition to the Russians.
The IOC and its President Thomas Bach defined the concept of “neutral athlete” – he must not have publicly supported the invasion of Ukraine, not having served the Russian army since the start of the operation in February 2022, agree to perform under a neutral banner, without national anthem or national colors – but leave the freedom to international sports federations to apply it or not, and in the way that suits them.
“I am sure that all of us, all of us who live in democratic countries, must do everything to prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in competitions under the current conditions,” added Hasek.
IOC leaders mentioned that the organization that oversees the Olympic movement on the planet could make its own decision about Russian athletes “at the appropriate time”. The IOC added, however, that excluding them, simply because of their nationality, is a discriminatory gesture.
The Paris Olympics will begin on July 26, 2024.
Separately, Hasek has been invited to deliver a speech to the European Parliament next month.
“I don’t know what kind of impact it will have, but I want to do my best to convince them (the politicians), so that they can in turn convince others,” he explained.
Hasek has suggested excluding Russian and Belarusian athletes since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In particular, he asked, in an open letter addressed to the NHL and the two professional tennis circuits (the ATP and the WTA), to join the movement. Nothing came of it.
He said he was particularly disappointed with the reaction of the NHL and its commissioner, Gary Bettman.
“Yeah, I’m very disappointed with that because the NHL still holds a big place in my heart,” recalled Hasek, who was nicknamed the ‘Dominator’ during his NHL career.
Hasek won six Vezina Trophies, awarded to the league’s Most Outstanding Goaltender, and two Hart Trophies, awarded to the League’s Most Outstanding Player – he is the only goaltender to win it twice – during his nine-season stint. with the Buffalo Sabres.
In particular, he suggested to Bettman that the league buy out the contracts of Russian players, so as to exclude them. Otherwise, he explained, the NHL is partly responsible for what is currently unfolding in Ukraine.
He added that he will ask the NHL to pay a significant amount to Ukraine for its reconstruction after the war.
“It wouldn’t be a few million, but something like a percentage of his annual income,” he said. My goal is not to harm the NHL, but to make it pay for its attitude. »
Hasek also said that tennis and other international sports federations that still tolerate Russians and Belarusians should do the same because “they support the Russian invasion.”