Russian wrestlers reject invites to Paris Olympics

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Ten Russian wrestlers who were invited to compete at the Paris Olympics as neutral athletes will not take part after some of the leading wrestlers were left off the invitation list, the Russian Wrestling Federation said Saturday.

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

The RWF said its executive committee, the national teams’ coaching staff and the invited athletes had unanimously decided to refuse to participate in the Olympics after a meeting.

“We do not accept the unsportsmanlike selection principle that guided the International Olympic Committee when forming the list of eligible athletes, the purpose of which 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 one sport. The IOC did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Saturday’s decision by the Russian wrestling federation, whether it thought the wrestlers had faced any pressure to refuse and whether it would support any wrestler who might want to compete against the wishes of the federation.

The federation said up to 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 listed the names of top Russian wrestlers who didn’t get invitations and said the Olympic event would now be devalued.

“Any sane person understands that the status of the Olympic Games as the most significant sporting event is being questioned, and wrestling competitions without Russian athletes will be incomplete, and the champions will not receive the satisfaction of winning the Olympic tournament,” the statement said.

The wrestlers’ withdrawal comes after Russian cyclist Aleksandr Vlasov also pulled out of the Olympics last month.

Russian and Belarusian athletes can participate only as neutrals — without flags, anthems or any role in the opening parade — because of the war in Ukraine. The IOC previously said it would issue invitations only to Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not have 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 any athletes to Paris. Its statement didn’t specify what its athletes thought. The IOC told The Associated Press in a statement Tuesday that it was waiting for an “individual reply” from the judo athletes. The IOC website lists one Russian competitor in judo as having accepted an invitation.

As of Sunday, the IOC website listed 23 Russian athletes in seven sports who it said had accepted invitations for the Paris Olympics, including the wrestlers. 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev is among six tennis players who the IOC says have accepted.

The Paris Olympics run from July 26 to Aug. 11, with the wrestling competition starting Aug. 5.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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