Awarding world titles without Russians is discrimination – sports minister

Oleg Matytsin commented after figure skating coach Eteri Tutberidze criticized the authorities in her sport

International sporting federations should remember that their main task is to unite rather than divide, according to Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin. The official added that handing out titles and rankings points in the absence of banned Russian participants was a continuation of a “discriminatory policy.”

Matytsin was commenting after renowned figure skating trainer Eteri Tutberidze – who has coached numerous Olympic and world champions – attacked the authorities in her sport for sidelining Russian stars.

Tutberidze criticized the policy of the International Skating Union (ISU) as absurd.” 

I think that ratings should not be updated and titles should not be given out in our absence,” said the trainer in a social media message.

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Tutberidze and her skaters have enjoyed immense success. © RIA / Aleksandr Vilf
‘Absurd’ to hand out titles without Russians – skating coach

That was a stance backed by Russian sports chief Matytsin in comments to TASS on Monday.  

“The formation of ratings lists is the prerogative of international federations,” said the official. 

“The decision of the International Skating Union to update the ratings and award titles in the absence of our athletes is a continuation of the discriminatory policy of world sports structures, which should remember that their main task is to develop sports and maintain conditions for fair competition.

“Russia is part of the international sports movement, we continue to strengthen the national system of sports, create conditions for training and competitive practice.”

As Russian athletes remain banned from international competition in various sports, officials are organizing domestic replacements as an alternative.

Matytsin said the level shown at some tournaments was the equivalent of that at a global level. 

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Matytsin had stern words on the prospect of Russians missing out. © Marco Cantile / LightRocket via Getty Images
Russian Olympic ban would be ‘criminal’ – minister

“The results of our athletes in some Russian competitions are superior to world ones, for example, [swimmer] Evgenia Chikunova at the Friendship Games [in Kazan] or [pole vaulter] Anzhelika Sidorova at the Moscow championships in athletics,” said the minister. 

“Fans from all over the world always anticipate the performances of our incredible Olympic champions and world champions in many sports, including figure skating.

“I am sure that at the upcoming Grand Prix series in Russia we will see many bright performances from our stars.

“With every performance they have something to surprise their fans, and world sport, unfortunately, deprives itself of the opportunity to develop competition between the strongest,” added Matytsin.

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International sports federations began to impose suspensions on Russian and Belarusian competitors following a recommendation issued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on February 28, after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. 

IOC president Thomas Bach has claimed that the recommendation is partly to protect Russian and Belarusian athletes from hostility they would face outside their respective countries. 

That argument has been dismissed by many Russian sporting officials and athletes, who have described the bans as discriminatory and contrary to the principles of keeping sport outside of politics.