IWWF Reverses ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes

IWWF Reverses Ban: Russian and Belarusian Athletes Cleared for International Competitions


IWWF Reverses Ban: Russian and Belarusian Athletes Cleared for International Competitions

IWWF Reverses ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes

Image: @iwwfed

By Jack Burden

In a significant shift of policy, the International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) announced today that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be permitted to compete at all IWWF sanctioned events, including World Championships and Confederation Titled Events. This decision marks a significant departure from the stringent ban imposed on these athletes amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Initially, in March 2022, the IWWF adopted a firm stance, resolving to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from all sanctioned events while refraining from endorsing any events in Russia or Belarus. Despite calls from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to permit Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutral participants under specific conditions, the IWWF maintained its position throughout the following year.

While the federation slightly relaxed its restrictions in August 2023, allowing athletes from Russia and Belarus to register and compete under the IWWF flag in certain events, they remained barred from the 2023 World Championships and all other titled events. Notably, athletes like Russia’s Igor Morozov and the Belarusian team, which had placed fifth in 2021, were unable to participate in the World Championships.

However, despite the appearance of a stringent stance, the IWWF’s ban proved largely ineffective. Following the initial announcement in Spring 2022, Belarus’ top skiers, Aliaksandra Danishueskaya and Hanna Straltsova, swiftly switched their federation from Belarus to the USA to circumvent the restrictions. Despite the IWWF’s revision of its Rules of Eligibility in October 2022, which imposed a 12-month period of ineligibility for athletes switching federations, Danishueskaya and Straltsova continued to compete and even secured world titles under the USA Water Ski banner.

Furthermore, a glaring oversight occurred when Morozov’s scores from the 2022 Louisiana Night Jam were included in the IWWF’s official scorebook and world ranking list, despite him being listed as a Russian competitor. Although Morozov participated in the event under the AWSA Class C sanction, which falls outside IWWF jurisdiction, his scores should never been recorded in the IWWF scorebook.

The IWWF’s role in navigating geopolitical tensions while upholding the integrity of competitions has been fraught with challenges. An example of the complexities involved arose when the federation initially posted an announcement allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, with the backdrop of a Ukrainian flag and referring to the war as a “conflict.” The post sparked backlash from past and current Ukrainian athletes, prompting the IWWF to issue a revised statement.

Ultimately, the exclusion of athletes from any country should not be taken lightly. It is essential to acknowledge that Russian and Belarusian athletes are also caught up in events beyond their control. While it may be our responsibility in the waterskiing community to play a small part in applying pressure on the administrations in these countries, we deceive ourselves if we believe that waterskiing has any substantial impact on the outcome of this tragic war. Perhaps the best course of action is to provide athletes with opportunities to compete on the international stage while avoiding entanglement in political disputes.

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