(Moscow) Russia will not boycott the 2024 Olympics in Paris, assured the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdniakov, affirming that each Russian athlete was free to choose whether he wished to participate under a neutral banner or not.

“A boycott of the Games leads nowhere,” declared Mr. Pozdniakov during a press briefing on the sidelines of a congress of Russian Olympic athletes which ends on Friday.

He recalled the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow by Western countries, in protest against the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan launched in 1979.

“Athletes were not able to participate in the competitions and the political boycott led to very negative results: neither side came out a winner,” stressed Stanislav Pozdniakov, insisting on the fact that “sport must take its distance from politics”.

Russian athletes were banned from competition after the Russian offensive in Ukraine began in 2022.

But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended last March the reintegration of Russian and Belarusian athletes into international competitions, under a neutral banner and “on an individual basis”, for those who did not actively support the offensive in Ukraine.

According to Mr. Pozdniakov, any Russian athlete will be able to participate in the 2024 Olympics under a neutral banner, if they wish to do so and if they are authorized to do so by the IOC.

“We live in a free country. Each athlete is free to make their choice”, namely “to show solidarity with their teammates banned from the Olympic Games for invented reasons or to decide to participate under a neutral banner”, declared Mr. Pozdniakov.

He stressed, however, that the “IOC recommendations” were “prohibitive in nature” and would “not allow a large number of Russian athletes to participate in the Olympic Games.”

Russian athletes participated in the 2021 Tokyo Games, under the banner of their Olympic committee “ROC” and not their country, a sanction following the revelation of a state doping policy in Russia, notably during of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.