Ten Russian wrestlers decline invitations to Paris Olympics

Ten Russian wrestlers who were invited to participate as neutral athletes in the Olympic Games in Paris will not participate, the Russian Wrestling Federation announced on Saturday. This after several prominent wrestlers were removed from the invitation list.

Two-time gold medalist Abdulrashid Sadulaev and 2023 world champion Zaurbek Sidakov were among the top Russian wrestlers who were not included in the International Olympic Committee’s June list of invited neutral athletes, the RWF said in a statement.

The RWF reported that the executive committee, the coaching staff of the national teams and the invited athletes had unanimously decided after a meeting to refuse participation in the Olympic Games.

“We do not accept the unsportsmanlike selection principle used by the International Olympic Committee in drawing up the list of eligible athletes. The aim of this is to undermine the principle of unity of our team,” the RWF said.

The wrestlers would have been the largest group of Russians in any sport. The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday’s decision by the Russian wrestling federation, whether it believed the wrestlers were under pressure to refuse and whether it would support a wrestler who wanted to compete against the federation’s wishes.

The federation said that only 16 Russians had qualified for the Paris Olympics, not 10, and that six of those invited were “far from the status of Russian team leaders.” The federation named the best Russian wrestlers who had not received an invitation and said the Olympic event would now lose value.

“Anyone who is sane understands that the status of the Olympic Games as the main sporting event is being questioned. Wrestling matches without Russian athletes are not complete and the champions will not experience the satisfaction of winning the Olympic tournament,” the statement said.

The wrestlers’ withdrawal comes after Russian cyclist Alexander Vlasov also withdrew from the Olympic Games last month.

Russian and Belarusian athletes can only participate as neutrals — without flags, anthems or any role in the opening parade — because of the war in Ukraine. The IOC previously said it would only extend invitations to Russian and Belarusian athletes who have no ties to the security services or military and who have not publicly supported the war.

Last week, the Russian judo federation said its board had decided not to send athletes to Paris. The statement did not specify what its athletes thought about it. The IOC told The Associated Press in a statement Tuesday that it was waiting for an “individual response” from the judo athletes. The IOC website says one Russian judo athlete has accepted an invitation.

On Sunday, the IOC website listed 23 Russian athletes in seven sports who had accepted invitations to the Paris Olympics, according to the IOC, including wrestlers. 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev is one of six tennis players who have accepted an invitation, according to the IOC.

The Paris Olympics will run from July 26 to August 11. The wrestling competition will begin on August 5.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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