In this context, the International Judo Federation stands by its decision to allow Russian and Belorussian athletes to participate in IJF competitions only under the IJF Flag, anthem and colours, as neutral athletes, respecting all the requirements of neutrality. This decision gives equal chances to all athletes, to rise above discrimination, politics, conflicts or any other non-sport related matter. Sport is an important social tool, a bridge for rebuilding communities and a better society, at world level.
At present, the world is struggling due to a conflict between two countries whose national judo federations are both IJF members. The conflict is not created or fueled by sport. Athletes are not to be punished for issues which are out of their control and, as Mr Thomas Bach, IOC President recently declared, "Everybody who is supporting the war, can and should be sanctioned, but everybody who does not support the war, their rights must be respected, under our own rules and the rules of international law; there is no sanction and there should be no sanction for holding a passport."
The IJF President, Mr Marius Vizer, declared, “The sport of judo is a sport of education. It teaches values such as respect, friendship, courage, mutual aid. Judo has always strived to avoid political interference or any form of discrimination, against athletes or any other judo representatives. In our philosophy and communication, we often refer to ourselves, the global judo community, as the judo family and this is based on the very principles that guide us: friendship and respect. Moreover, the International Judo Federation has been running dedicated Judo for Peace programmes for many years, which we are using as a tool to bring communities together, to enhance dialogue and social cohesion in areas marked by different kinds of conflict.”
The IJF is aware of various governments’ conditions for certain national federations which are, at the moment, banned from taking part in competitions where Russian or Belarussian athletes are present. The IJF welcomed President Bach’s remarks during the ASOIF General Assembly 2022, which clarify the correct position that sports should take in today’s complicated political context, "How can you guarantee then, in your sport, a fair international competition, if the governments are deciding according to their own political interests, who can take part in a competition and who cannot take part? Then, if you open this gate, today it is Russia and Belarus, tomorrow it is your country; there is no country in the world which is loved by every other government. This is against all the principles we are standing for. If we leave this to the governments then we are becoming a political tool and we cannot guarantee any more fair competition. Our task is to realise that we have to get back to the day when we can unite the entire world in peaceful competition. This is not the day, but we can only hope that peace prevails."
We consider that athletes competing under the IJF flag, in a status of complete neutrality, are not representatives of any country and as such, competing with them is not a violation of any government decision pertaining to Russian or Belorussian athletes. We strongly believe that to discriminate against a neutral athlete is against human rights.
The International Judo Federation strongly condemns the war in Ukraine and we hope that peace will be restored very soon. As the sport movement is recognised for its powerful impact on world peace, we believe that this decision will represent a bridge towards restoring peace.