PARIS – The Russian and Belarusian men’s basketball teams have been banned from the pre-qualification tournaments for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) announced on Tuesday.
Athletes from the two countries have faced sanctions from a multitude of sports since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 in what it called a “special military operation”.
As Moscow’s assault on Ukraine stretches into a second year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended allowing athletes from Russia and Moscow ally Belarus to compete only as individual neutrals in upcoming international competitions and not as a team.
“Following the IOC recommendations on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international competitions… the Fiba Executive Committee has decided to not allow the registration of the Russian men’s national team in the Fiba Olympic pre-qualifying tournaments in 2023,” said a statement on the organisation’s website.
“Bulgaria, as the next best-ranked European team, will be the final team to participate to the Fiba Olympic pre-qualifying tournaments.”
The pre-qualification tournaments, which were introduced in 2023, will be played by 40 countries in total, with 28 that participated in the second round of the Fiba Basketball World Cup 2023 qualifiers plus the top-ranked 12 that did not participate in the second round.
Russia and Belarus were banned from qualifying for the 32-nation World Cup which will be held in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia starting Aug 25 and serves as the main Olympic qualifying event.
For teams that failed to make the World Cup, the pre-qualification tournaments, which start from Aug 12-20, offer another opportunity to qualify for the 12-team Olympic tournament in Paris.
Seven spots will go to teams participating in the World Cup, four will be from the pre-qualification tournaments, while France will reserve a berth as hosts.
Russia who were 12th at the previous World Cup in 2019, last qualified for the Olympics in 2012, winning bronze medal with a line-up that included former National Basketball Association player Andrei Kirilenko.
In women’s competition, the Russian and Belarusian teams were barred from qualifying for the 16-team EuroBasket final tournament in June which serves as the continent’s main Olympic qualifier. AFP, REUTERS