The International Fencing Federation FIE has again admitted Russian and Belarusian fencers to international competitions. At an extraordinary congress of the federation held online, which was financed for many years with millions of its president, the Russian industrialist and patron Alisher Usmanov, 89 delegates voted for and 46 against the return of athletes to international competitions.

Christoph Becker

Sports editor.

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Usmanov was forced to relinquish his presidency after the Russian war against Ukraine was unleashed last spring; temporarily, as it was said. With the decision one day after Russia fired 81 missiles at Ukraine, the FIE is following the path that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is apparently striving for. Accordingly, Russian and Belarusian athletes should compete at the 2024 Summer Games in Paris under a neutral flag. IOC President Thomas Bach, Olympic fencing champion in 1976, had said that an exclusion "because of a passport or place of birth" violated the prohibition of discrimination. Already at the tournament in Seoul in April, which is relevant for the Olympic qualification, the fencers are expected back on the planche.

Among them is likely to be the Olympic champion Sofiya Pozdnyakova, the daughter of Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the president of the Russian National Olympic Committee. He was President of the European Fencing Federation until spring 2023.

The German top fencer Lea Krüger had foreseen the decision of the FIE and told the F.A.Z. At the beginning of February, I said, "And if that happens to us, it happens to everyone." The Russian regime shamelessly exploits the sport, the exclusion must be maintained urgently.

"Russian fencing will surprise many more"

"The result that all athletes are allowed to participate again could be a sign for further votes in the coming weeks in the sports world," said Claudia Bokel, President of the German Fencing Federation in a statement. The fencing federation referred to the consequences of this decision for the organization of upcoming international competitions in Germany, which could get problems.

The U.S. Fencing Federation said it was "disappointed, frustrated and worried, though not too surprised." Phil Andrews, chief executive of USA Fencing, asked in the statement: "This vote comes just over 100 days after 77 per cent of members of the same body voted to extend the ban. What has changed in those 104 days?"

The Russians, on the other hand, celebrated the result of the vote: "We will show our motivation and strength at the Olympics like never before. Russian fencing will surprise many more," said the Russian Tokyo Olympic champion Sofya Velikaja according to media reports in her homeland.