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Press release: WAKO Position on Participation of Athletes from Russia and Belarus

May 4, 2023

World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) has maintained its suspension of Russian and Belarussian athletes and officials from participating at any WAKO sanctioned international tournaments.

The decision was made following a WAKO Board meeting on Friday April 21st. This position reflects WAKO’s core intention to preserve the integrity of kickboxing competitions and ensure the safety of all athletes.

The decision since March 2022 to support the unified approach of the sports movement to not allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in international competitions due to fears over participants’ safety is a position still largely enforced by many federations. Given the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and Belarus is ongoing, and recent precedence of governments interfering and blocking athletes’ participation in sporting events as a vehicle to sanction instead of allowing sport to build bridges and promote solidarity between all people, we feel that such fears for safety have not been exacerbated.

WAKO acknowledges that sport can foster peace and solidarity between all people, and that sport should not become a political vehicle for influence in geo-politics. In that sense, the guiding principle is that athletes should always be allowed to participate in sport competitions without judgement of their passport and separate of any geo-political conflict outside the control of the sports movement. We recognize the recently proposed framework of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to which athletes from Russia and Belarus could potentially resume participation if International Federations decide such inclusion. And we are also aware that in some sports, peaceful and safe participation has been possible.

However, in sight of risks to athletes and events that could arise by re-opening participation, plus steps to seek more clarity on IOC’s complex criteria for allowing participation, WAKO is not convinced there is satisfactory justification to lift the suspensions on Russian and Belarussian players and officials at this time. WAKO continues to express unwavering support to the people of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian kickboxing community, and we strongly condemn the invasion of Ukraine, which works against WAKO’s core values and our objective to obtain peace. WAKO will continue to monitor the situation closely. It is a regrettable scenario to be in where kickboxing athletes are not being allowed to freely participate due to geo-political conflicts and interference by governments. But it is a reality WAKO presently accepts as we strive to uphold our role of preserving the integrity of kickboxing competitions and ensuring the safety of all athletes.

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