Putin’s favourite sport judo will allow Russians to compete internationally, though not under a Russian flag. And Putin remains head of the Russian Judo Federation, which is affiliated to the International Judo Federation.

2 March 2022 By Paul Martin

At last, Russian war-mongering dictator Vladimir Putin is still the president and Arkady Rotenberg is first vice president of the Russian Judo Federation, and no action ahs been taken to ban the Russian outfit from affiliation to the IJF.

Official announcement of the International Judo Federation

The International Judo Federation announces that Mr. Vladimir Putin and Mr. Arkady Rotenberg have been removed from all positions held in the International Judo Federation.

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The International Judo Federation (IJF) says it is refusing to ban Russian athletes from its international competitions, rejecting the individual bans imposed by the international bodies representing athletics and other sports.

This announcement was in stark contrast to the decision made by the International Paralympics chiefs hours later — to prevent any athletes from Russia or Belarus from competing in the Paralympics, starting in Beijing today. That was itself a dramatic reversal of its refusal, declared earlier this week, to ban individual athletes.

“Any radical decision to obstruct the participation of athletes in sporting competitions would only continue the escalation of violence and nurture the feeling of injustice for those athletes who did not participate in any decision regarding the conflict. We cannot condemn the athletes for what is happening,” the IJF stated. It advocated that the Russian athletes should “pursue a dialogue” with judo colleagues, and the IJF would “guide all judo athletes from Russia in an appropriate direction, and keep them far from any possibility to choose a path against their moral principles”.

The IJF claimed its stance is “in line with the Olympic Charter”, and added: “As sporting events and sport itself promote peace and solidarity worldwide, we consider that those athletes who participate in international sporting events are promoting peace and international solidarity.”

The Russian Ministry of Sport says it is preparing to launch an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reinstate its athletes.

The IJF also confirmed its original decision, just after the war started, not to stage the next Grand Slam event in Russia, due to have started on May 20. There are no other international events on the schedule in Russia this year, but the IJF says it “now cancels all judo competition” there.

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has been the IJF’s Honorary President since 2003. As he has not been removed from that position, only ‘suspended’, Putin could be reinstated at the whim of the IJF’s leadership. In 2019 the IJF’s president Marius Vizer publicly expressed his “admiration” for the Russian leader.

Putin, bestowed the very rare honour of an 8th Dan by the IJF, remains the president of the Russian Judo Federation. His first vice-president is a sanctioned oligarch, Arkady Rotenberg. Rotenberg has had some of his assets frozen during the crisis that has led to war between Russia and Ukraine.

No action has been taken by the IJF to suspend or cut ties with the Russian Judo Federation.

The IJF has also not cut ties with any of its Russian sponsors, though the European Judo Federation says it has “put ongoing contracts on hold due to the current escalation of the security situation”. The companies it has stopped from being sponsors are Fox Fly Film, SMP Group, and Zerno Zavolzhya Trading, all of which are controlled by Russian oligarchs.

The line taken by the IJF echoes that of another sport where Russia is strong, the International Gymnastics Federation. It says it will allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in its events, but has banned their flags and the playing of their national anthems. Swimming is also allowing Russians to continue — as individuals.

Athletics, football and basketball, and many other sports, have decided not to allow the Russian athletes to compete, even as individuals.

Most were following a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee on Monday.

The Russian President of the European Judo Union, Sergey Soloveychik, resigned this week. Soloveychik was president of the EJU since 2007. He remains vice-president of the Russian Judo Federation, alongside Arkady Rotenberg, another Russian oligarch and close friend and judo partner of Putin.

Here is its full most recent IJF statement:

Statement of the International Judo Federation
Last week, following the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the International Judo Federation sanctioned the Russian Judo Federation by cancelling the Kazan Grand Slam, 20-22 May 2022. Further to that, the International Judo Federation now cancels all judo competitions on the territory of the Russian Federation.
As sporting events and sport itself promote peace and solidarity worldwide, we consider that those athletes who participate in international sporting events are promoting peace and international solidarity.
On this basis, the global decision to sanction all Russian athletes, regardless of the different opinions many have expressed, is not considered to be justified.
Any radical decision to obstruct the participation of athletes in sporting competitions would only continue the escalation of violence and nurture the feeling of injustice for those athletes who did not participate in any decision regarding the conflict. We cannot condemn the athletes for what is happening.
Therefore, in line with the Olympic Charter and its fundamental principles, as the IJF did in the past during other difficult conflicts between certain states and nations, we will provide the Russian athletes with the opportunity to participate in IJF events only under the IJF flag, logo and anthem.
Therefore, we can continue to guide all judo athletes from Russia in an appropriate direction and keep them far from any possibility to choose a path against their moral principles, taking into consideration the combat profile of our sport as well as its values.
We encourage Russian athletes to pursue a dialogue with their judoka friends worldwide, to travel and to promote, at home and away, the Olympic values and the judo principles of mutual aid and prosperity.