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(Doha) The Judo Worlds, which open on Sunday in Doha, will be the first major international competition to once again welcome Russian and Belarusian athletes, excluded from most sporting events since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

A few days before the start of the World Championships, the International Judo Federation (IJF) has indeed given the green light to the reinstatement of Russians and Belarusians on the condition that they do so individually and as neutral athletes.

This decision, which follows a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee, angered the Ukrainians who immediately announced their withdrawal from competition.

Because the Ukrainian federation claims that some of these judokas are also active soldiers in the Russian army.

“I think it is unacceptable to allow soldiers from a terrorist country that kills Ukrainians every day to participate in international competitions”, launched on Instagram Daria Bilodid, 2019 world champion in the 48 category. kilos and bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics.

Other countries, such as the Czech Republic or Poland, have also criticized the reintegration of Russians, while deciding to participate in the Worlds anyway.

“We cannot punish our athletes who have been preparing for it for a long time,” Polish Federation boss Jacek Zawadka was quoted as saying by the Polish news agency PAP.

Following the Ukrainian protests, the IJF said it had dismissed eight members of the Russian delegation after reviewing their “background”.

Only athletes “employed at the Federal Sports Training Center” and athletes “for whom no information has been identified suggesting support or opinions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” were permitted to participate in the Worlds-2023, said the body.

In September 2022, judo was one of the last sports to exclude Russians and Belarusians from its competitions. Russian President Vladimir Putin, an accomplished judoka, has long had the status of honorary president and ambassador of the IJF.

At the sporting level, the competition will mark the return to business of the ten-time world champion and three-time Olympic champion, the Frenchman Teddy Riner, absent from the planetary meeting since 2017.