FEI Opts to Ban Russian and Belarusian Athletes from Competition

Just a matter of days after announcing the cessation of all FEI competition held in Russia or Belarus, its vassal state in the invasion of Ukraine, the FEI has now officially announced that athletes, horses, and officials registered as being from either country will not be able to participate in FEI competitions in any country. This announcement comes seven days into Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which is estimated to have killed several thousand civilians so far in the Eastern European country.

This Emergency Board Resolution calls upon Article 20.3 in the FEI Statutes, a seldom-used piece of governance that states: In an Emergency Situation the Board may, by a two-thirds (2/3) majority of votes cast, pass Resolutions which are normally the prerogatives of the General Assembly. In such cases, the National Federations shall be notified promptly of these measures. If a majority of the National Federations eligible to vote, responding within thirty (30) days of the date of the notice, signifies its disapproval, the measure shall be rescinded if possible.

The ban on Russian and Belarusian representatives also stretches to a ban on Russian or Belarusian flags and anthems being displayed or played at FEI events.

The prohibition will come into effect as of midnight, Central European Time, on Sunday, March 6th, so as not to cause any disruption to any FEI competitions ongoing or about to begin. The ban, which was recommended by the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board on 28 February, represents the FEI’s condemnation of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and no date for further review has been mentioned at present.

“It is regrettable that the FEI has needed to take such severe measures, but we need to ensure the safety, integrity and fairness of FEI Competitions during these difficult times,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “We sincerely hope that a peaceful solution can be found as soon as possible.”

The FEI now joins a growing list of major sporting governing bodies that have opted to ban Russia and Belarus, including the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), World Curling, and the International Skating Union. Curiously, the Winter Paralympic Games, which begin this week, will still allow Russian and Belarusian athletes, though they’ll compete under a neutral Olympic flag and won’t be counted in any medal tallies.

“The Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cups and many other sports events unite athletes of countries which are in confrontation and sometimes even war,” says the IOC. “At the same time, the Olympic Movement is united in its sense of fairness not to punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them. We are committed to fair competitions for everybody without any discrimination.

“The current war in Ukraine, however, puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma. While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.”