Pause, Russia is still at the rendezvous

Two years after Russia was suspended from all international competitions by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in December, Russia takes part in the World Handball Championships, which begin this Wednesday in Egypt. As for other competitions, Russian athletes will develop under a neutral flag, prohibiting the display of their colors. A compromise that ultimately won’t be a victory for anyone. temporary.

World champion in 1993 and 1997, 4-time Olympic champion, European champion in 1996, Russia is a great handball country. Its 22 participations in 27 World Championships are evidence of this. From this point of view, it is not surprising to see Russians in these world shows in Egypt. In question, on December 17, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended Russia from all international competitions for two years, while the World Anti-Doping Agency imposed sanctions for four years. Historically, the phrase did not stop Russian handball players from landing in Egypt less than a month later.

In fact, they are allowed to play under the name “Russian Handball Federation Team”. That said, under the banner of neutrality, that was the case for Russian teams and athletes who were never sanctioned for doping during the suspension announced by CAS. Specifically, beyond the name, Russia will evolve in these worlds without a flag, without any visible signs, and without an anthem. Officially, we’ll also be talking about “neutral” players, not Russians. “For Russia, which is very patriotic, this is a humiliation. The blows are real, even symbolic, because they can still be involved”explain to us Lucas AubinRussian geopolitical expert and author of a paper entitled Sportokratura in Russia: Sport Governance in the Era of Vladimir Putin (2000-2020).

Because sports and national teams have long been a political tool in Russia and nowhere else. Lucas Aubin explained: “Simply put, when Putin came to power, he inherited a dilapidated sports environment devastated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. He decided to make sport a core element of his “soft power”, targeting foreigners and Russians. Sport is a catalyst for patriotism, it allows you to project a positive image of your country”. Especially with this in mind, Russia hosted the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, or the 2018 World Cup. But it was for this very purpose that institutionalized doping was implemented, leading to the condemnation of CAS today. The circle is complete.

If the slap was real, the damage was actually limited for Russia, and the announcement was welcomed as a relief. “The worst case scenario for them is being left out and not participating because Russia has invested heavily in this generation of athletes for 20 years. At least they were involved”, which relativizes Lucas Aubin. According to him, this symbolic sanction can even be turned into an asset: “There will be a boomerang effect, Russian athletes may use this ban to show that they are strong and that they are still there. They can use it in a positive way. As for the Russian authorities, they are happy that Russia is in this position alone against everyone, Russia Never understood by the West. They say: ‘They don’t understand us, but we don’t give in'”.

From where do you think Russia is the winner of this lost arm wrestling? “All of this taken together, it’s almost positive and paradoxical. Putin will be able to concretize the patriotism of athletes who will over-motivate themselves by telling themselves they are on a mission to defend Russia, even without their color.But it doesn’t address doping’s internal problems”, recalls Lucas Aubin, noting that a new generation of athletes is turning against Russian sports authorities.”Mais they were framed by the senior leaders of these generalized doping methods.There are generational issues, we are in transition“, he added.

for Carol GomezDirector of Research at IRIS, specializing in the impact of sport on international relations since 2013, we do have to qualify:”Some believe that being there is a victory for Russia, allowing us to say “we’re still there”. In my opinion, no flag, no national anthem, no iconic sign is a heavy burden when it comes to communication, it makes sanctions clearly visible. Sanctions always have a communication goal.Excluding the team in this way can condemn the behaviorIn the end, everyone agrees on one thing: only the result can make innocent Russian athletes forget the punishments caused by years of political interference in the sports world. In Group H with South Korea, Slovenia and Belarus, “neutral athletes have the opportunity to participate in the main Rounds, talked about in handball, and not bad.

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