topic of the issue

Unsportsmanlike conduct

09.05.2014 | By Ihor Levenstein

The Olympic year is not only for the Olympians

Current events were in the picture at the sport arenas and stands. It is possible that at a certain development of events disciplinary measures may follow.


The two Russian aggressions happened to coincide in time with the Olympic Games. In 2008 during the Olympic Games in Beijing Russian invaded Georgia and Winter Olympic Games in Sochi marked the start of Russias interference with the situation in Ukraine. A lot has been said and written about Kremlins intention not to attack before the Olympic Games. It was totally unbeneficial for the Russian leader to disrupt or spoil the games, when US $50 bn was invested and a huge advertising campaign was held. Main efforts were directed at good organization and worthy performance of the Russian Olympic athletes. These efforts were justified and the games took place without serious problems and Russians topped the total medal count.

Events on Maidan put to doubt participation of the Ukrainian athletes in the Olympic Games in Sochi. Calls for boycott were voiced, particularly since a number of the leaders of the top countries announced they would not be coming to the Olympics as a sign of protests against Putins policy. At that point, however, it was mainly about violation of sexual minority rights. As a result, the Ukrainian delegation traveled to Sochi and our Olympians competed in the events, though not all of them. On February 19, the day following the shooting on Maidan, skiers Maryna Lysohor and Kateryna Serdyuk refused to participate in the team sprint they were denied the request to wear mourning ribbons. On the same day, alpine skier Bohdana Matsotska and her trainer and father Oleh Matsotskiy refused to compete in slalom and left the Olympic village.

Soon after the Olympic fire was put out in Sochi, the first green men appeared in Crimea. Now, it was questionable whether the Ukrainian team would participate in the Paralympic Games that began in Sochi on March 7. It was not without a doubt that the decision was made not to deprive our handicapped athletes of the opportunity to compete in the biggest sporting event of a fouryear cycle. The Ukrainian delegation was represented at the opening ceremony by a sole athlete Mykhailo Tkachenko who was in a wheelchair and carried the national flag. The new Minister of Sport Dmytro Bulatov stated that this was Ukraines way of expressing the protest against Russian aggression.

The closing ceremony was also marked with a scandal. On March 16, also the only Ukrainian representative, flag bearer Lyudmyla Pavlenko was going to enter the Fisht Stadium in a wreath with inscription Peace in two languages. There were the same inscriptions on the athletes jacket. The organizers tried to prohibit the Ukrainian from going onto the stadium, but athletes of other countries defended her and took photos next to her.


Crimeas annexation to Russia inevitably created problems for the fate of Crimean athletes, clubs and organizations. The question about participation football clubs Tavria (Simferopol) and Sevastopol FC in the Russian championship appeared right away. It involves several problems at once. Exit of two clubs from the Ukrainian championship dramatically changes the structure of the tournament. On the other hand, Russian Premier League does not have two vacancies for the Ukrainian teams and they will have to come up with something. Finally, permission from UEFA is required, which following international organizations cannot recognize Crimea to be a part of Russia. There have been precedents, however. For instance FC Sheriff Tiraspol from Transdnistria competes in the Championship of Moldova.

Crimean federations of football and basketball quickly expressed the desire to enter corresponding Russian associations. Russia, however, decided to wait until the end of current championships of Ukraine.

Some Ukrainian athletes living in Crimea decided to adopt Russian citizenship and represent Russia. For instance, Olympic Champion of Beijing 2008 shooter Artur Ayvazyan expressed hope that sport in Crimea would reach a new level since it is a head taller in Russia. At the same time London Olympics champion boxer Oleksandr Usyk categorically refused to change citizenship. World champion in rhythmic gymnastics Anna Rizatdinova expressed the same position. In her case, change of citizenship would mean a threeyear disqualification (different international federations have different rules, but most frequently athletes that change citizenship are not eligible to compete for their new countries right away).

Sport Minister of Russia Vitaliy Mutko commented on the issue: Together with the Olympic Committee of Russia we are working to adapt local sports organizations and accept them into national federations. As for athletes, it is not an easy question. We have to act carefully and in correspondence with the regulations. First, the athletes will obtain Russian citizenship and then all the rules will apply. We will have to work with colleagues from international structures and from Ukrainian federations. This will be a trilateral decision in order to speed up the process. The work will be done in each concrete case separately.


It is not clear whether there will be any sanctions against Russian sport projects and organizations. One thing, however, can be said with much conviction Russian athletes are bound to follow the footsteps of their Soviet forerunners, who were often booed by the peers and audience at many competitions. Negative attitude towards a countrys policy has been traditionally transferred on guiltyofnothing athletes of this country. Now offensive posters and chants, whistling and booing are guaranteed for Russian athletes because of the actions of one former Russian judoist.

Politics has long influenced sport. It is symbolic that professional boxing world champion Vitaliy Klitschko is now one of the leading Ukrainian politicians. Sport also returns the impulses it received from politics and in many ways.

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