No Russians, Belarusians Expected at Swimming Worlds in July

Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP
Members of the Geneva branch of Ukrainian society in Switzerland protest during a rally to urge International Olympic Committee to reconsider their decision of participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes under white neutral flag at the next 2024 Paris Olympic Games, in front of the IOC headquarters, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Saturday, March 25, 2023.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — No Russian or Belarusian athletes are expected to compete at this year’s swimming world championships in Japan because the sport’s governing body isn’t expected to rule on their eligibility until it’s too late for them to enter.

World Aquatics said Wednesday it will create a task force to look at how Russia and Belarus could return to swimming, diving and water polo as neutral athletes. The update is expected in July, the same month of the world championships in Fukuoka.

Entry deadlines for swimming and diving is June 27. For water polo, the entry deadline is July 3. The championships start on July 14.

Governing bodies like World Aquatics were asked by the International Olympic Committee last week to look at ways of reintegrating Russian and Belarusians with neutral status ahead of the 2024 Paris Games.

Swimming is one of the three biggest sports on the Olympic program. Track and field has already excluded Russia and Belarus from its world championships this year in August in Budapest, Hungary. The gymnastics world championships are scheduled for October in Antwerp, Belgium, with a decision on Russian and Belarusian participation still undecided.

The IOC has suggested athletes who have actively supported the war in Ukraine or are contracted to the military and national security agencies should be denied neutral status. Russia and Belarus should also stay excluded from team sports, the IOC said last week.

Most Olympics sports banned those countries from playing in or hosting international events within weeks of the invasion of Ukraine last year. Tennis and cycling have allowed athletes to continue with neutral status.

World Aquatics said its decision last year to exclude athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus remains in effect. Those countries both missed the 2022 worlds in Budapest.

At the previous world championships in 2019 — held in South Korea before the coronavirus pandemic — Russia placed third in the medals table behind China and the United States, winning 12 golds and 30 medals overall. Ukraine won seven medals, including one gold.

World Aquatics said its task force would include athletes and be led by Maureen Croes of Aruba, who is president of the Pan American regional swim body.