How do you solve a problem like Russia? Luge struggles to find a solution following Extraordinary Congress and “unsatisfactory” legal situation

An “unsatisfactory” legal situation, an indecisive vote, and calls for a boycott published by the international federation whose own events were targeted, highlight an extraordinary week of events for the FIL

Compartir
Compartir articulo
2022 Beijing Olympics - Luge - Team Relay Competition - National Sliding Centre, Beijing, China - February 10, 2022. Tatyana Ivanova of the Russian Olympic Committee and Roman Repilov of the Russian Olympic Committee react after their run. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
2022 Beijing Olympics - Luge - Team Relay Competition - National Sliding Centre, Beijing, China - February 10, 2022. Tatyana Ivanova of the Russian Olympic Committee and Roman Repilov of the Russian Olympic Committee react after their run. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The International Luge Federation (FIL) teeters on the brink of crisis following a chaotic week of events that saw: the FIL Court of Arbitration annual sanctions placed on the Russian Luge Federation (RLF), a vote to expel the RLF fall short at the FIL Extraordinary Congress, and the federation’s own social media channels publish an open letter from Ukrainian luge athletes calling for the boycott of any FIL competitions with Russian participation.

The drama began on Thursday when the FIL Court of Arbitration annulled all of the sanctions placed on the RLF by the FIL. The explicit reasoning for the annulment of the sanctions was not published by the FIL, however it was likely the result of the federation falling afoul of rules regarding political neutrality in the FIL statutes.

In a statement released on Monday, the FIL Executive Board claimed, “the members of the FIL Executive Board, but also the majority of the member federations of the FIL, cannot and do not want to behave neutrally regarding the war of aggression by Russia against the Ukraine.”

Rescuers search for bodies under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Borodyanka, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 11, 2022. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rescuers search for bodies under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Borodyanka, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 11, 2022. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“Even knowing that the measures against the Russian Luge Federation have been lifted for legal reasons, the FIL Executive Board is still fully committed to the measures decided on March 2, 2022 until revoked,” read an excerpt of the statement.

The original sanctions included a condemnation of the invasion, a ban on Russia hosting events sanctioned by the FIL, a ban on Russian athletes, coaches and officials participating in FIL sanctioned events, and the suspension of Russian representatives in various commissions and working groups.

The FIL Executive Board stated its intention to look for “possibilities to solve the unsatisfactory situation caused by the arbitration judgement of the FIL Court of Arbitration,” even floating a “possible change in the statutes,” which would be decided at the FIL Congress in Riga, Latvia on June 18-19, 2022.

Thursday’s legal drama was only complimented by the ensuing democratic drama of Friday.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Luge - Women's Singles Run 4 - National Sliding Centre, Beijing, China - February 8, 2022. Tatyana Ivanova of the Russian Olympic Committee reacts after competing. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
2022 Beijing Olympics - Luge - Women's Singles Run 4 - National Sliding Centre, Beijing, China - February 8, 2022. Tatyana Ivanova of the Russian Olympic Committee reacts after competing. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

An historic FIL Extraordinary Congress was convened on Friday to address motions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Two motions were tabled at the meeting. The first motion aimed to expel the RLF as a member of the FIL, while the second motion called for the immediate expulsion of the Russian officials from FIL bodies.

A two-thirds majority was needed to expel the RLF as a member of the FIL, however, a vote on the motion failed to find the support needed. 15 members voted for the expulsion of the RLF, while 12 members voted against the motion and a further 4 members abstained from the vote all together. The result meant the RLF remained a member of the FIL.

However, only a simple majority was needed to pass the second motion which would expel all Russian officials from FIL Bodies. In this case, the motion was passed, with 16 members voting in favor of the motion and 13 members voting against.

Russian Luge Federation President Natalia Gart told TASS, “following a simple majority of the votes, cast by the FIL executives, I was excluded from the FIL Executive Board.”

She added, “Albert Demchenko, Alexander Shakhnazarov and Gennady Rodionov were also stripped of their membership within the international federation’s seats.”

Luge - 2020 FIL World Luge Championships - Men's Sprint Singles Final - Sliding Center Sanki, Sochi, Russia - February 14, 2020   Russia's Roman Repilov celebrates winning   REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Luge - 2020 FIL World Luge Championships - Men's Sprint Singles Final - Sliding Center Sanki, Sochi, Russia - February 14, 2020 Russia's Roman Repilov celebrates winning REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Gart concluded, “we will certainly file an appeal with the FIL Court of Appeals. However, I believe that the recent results are outstanding. The Russian Luge Federation has been reinstated in its rights.”

An open letter signed by Ukrainian athletes was posted to the FIL’s social media channels on the weekend following the vote. An excerpt of the letter read, “we admire the sportsmanship in all sliding sports but the current war and situation in Ukraine goes beyond sports and sportsmanship. We can’t separate sport and politics when violations on human rights and lives take place.”

The Ukrainian luge athletes argued, “Russian Luge Federation and it’s athletes have proven with their actions that they support this war, they support Putin regime and all the horrible crimes of it, including rapes and killings of innocent people and children in Ukraine. As athletes, as human beings, we can’t allow that those people race on the highest level of our sport.”

“Sport is a community that shares values of peace, friendship and unity. Anyone who represents and supports war and war criminals can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to be called an athlete or a role model to the younger generation.”

The letter concluded, “Please state loudly to your national federations and public that you will not participate in any FIL international race if Russian Luge Team will be competing, from now until the war and Russian invasion of Ukraine is over!”

People participate in a flash mob protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., April 8, 2022. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado
People participate in a flash mob protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., April 8, 2022. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado

The FIL has yet to comment on the open letter, or why it was posted on the federation’s own social media accounts. However, it is clear from the actions of the FIL Executive Board and result of the FIL Extraordinary Congress that the sport remains deeply divided on the issue of how to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In their statement on Monday, the FIL Executive Board argued, “in international sport, too, it should be possible to impose sanctions on sports associations and members of a country’s association that demonstrates behavior contrary to international law that has been confirmed by a U.N. body or the IOC.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) did recommended that international federations, local organizers, and officials not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.

However, there has yet to be a unified approach taken in regards to carrying out the IOC’s recommendation. The lack of unity has forced international federations, local organizers, and officials to take action based on their own rules, statutes, and constitutions, leaving a jumbled, disjointed mess of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions.