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The War in Ukraine Impacts Sports

Arielle Rieder ’23 Assistant Sports Editor
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, has raised several contentious issues within sports.
With the Paralympics happening in conjunction with the war, officials faced the pressing issue of how to address these challenges politically while still making sure sporting was fair. The solution has been to ban Russian athletes from competing in different sporting events, including the Paralympics. Multiple other sporting events that were planned to happen in the country were moved, such as the Champions League final and the Formula One Grand Prix, planned for St. Petersburg and Sochi, respectively.

One of the many questions surrounding the issue is the impact on the Russian athletes who are banned from competing. Cyrus Kenkare ‘22 said, “Throughout history, athletes get caught in the midst of political decisions. We have seen this with boycotts of various Olympics. It is not going to be pleasant for the athletes but it is an unfortunate reality of the geopolitical landscape.” Nicole Kargin ‘24 commented on the difficulty of the geopolitical situation and the struggle of differentiating Russian athletes from their country: “When a government is infected with ill-intentioned rulers in power, the disease can quickly spread through the nation’s people by means of disinformation and propaganda, sickening its people.” Kargin agreed with Kenkare that not allowing athletes to compete “doesn’t seem fair, but it would be difficult to regulate.”

Many different organizations have forbidden Russian athletes from competing. This has caused discussion among spectators on whether this was just. Reagan Botti ’23 said, “These athletes represent a country that is causing such a destructive period of time for the world. Athletes who represent Russia in international competitions shouldn’t be allowed to compete.” Others however, believe the decision to be largely symbolic. Daniella Rodriguez-Lorrain said, “It’s a very performative thing to ban a Russian athlete from competing in an event just because they’re Russian because they aren’t directly supporting the Russian war against Ukraine.”

Other organizations have agreed with this idea by still allowing Russian competitors to compete. However, there have been athletes and countries from around Europe saying they would refuse to play the Russian athletes. Kenkare said, “Any team or individual has the right to decide if they want to participate against any given opponent. These are personal views and people should not be forced to go against their ideals.”

Another theme that has emerged from this war is that many Russian people do not support their government’s war. Matthew DeLaurentis ‘23 said, “First, I think it’s important to realize that not all Russian athletes support the Russian government’s actions, so as long as teams are refusing to play Russian teams and athletes in order to stand in solidarity with Ukraine, then I believe they have a right to do so.” Kargin said, “If Russian teams could prove their support for Ukraine, I’m sure competitors would be glad to have them participate.” Until then, she said, “If a particular team is known to be supporting their government in its current endeavors, competitors are correct in refusing to play them.”

Others took a different stance. Rodriguez-Larrain said, “The Ukrainian condition is not becoming better because you’re not letting a tennis player (for example) compete at an event.” Arjun Aggarwal ’23 said, “[It could be] weird if you don’t play someone just because they’re Russian.”
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