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Judo star issues threat if Russians allowed to compete

Ukrainian former world judo champion Georgii Zantaraia has said he will renounce his titles if Russians are permitted to compete at an upcoming tournament in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. The International Judo Federation (IJF) is standing by its policy to allow Russians and Belarusian to appear under neutral status.

Zantaraia, who was crowned world champion in the -60kg category in 2009, issued the threat in a social media post which condemned the IJF for its stance.

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“I’ve just saw (sic) on the official website of the International Judo Federation that Russian athletes have registered to participate in the tournament in Ulaanbaatar and are able to participate under the neutral status of a candidate (under the flag of the Federation),” wrote the 34-year-old judo star.

“If Russian athletes are allowed to take part in the tournament, I will officially renounce all my titles and the title of world champion,” added Zantaraia, who is also a three-time European champion, among a host of other medals won during his career.  

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A post shared by Георгий Зантарая (@zantaraia_georgii)

The Georgian-born judoka reiterated his belief that sport “cannot stand aside” from the current situation while accusing the IJF of “passively supporting the war in Ukraine.”

Zantaraia pledged that “Ukraine will not participate in the tournament if Russian representatives are admitted to it even under the flag of the [International Judo] Federation.”

The IJF lists 28 competitors – 14 male and 14 female – as among those registered under neutral status for the ‘Grand Slam’ in Ulaanbaatar, which runs from June 24 to 26.

The federation has defended its stance to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to continue to appear as neutrals despite federations across numerous other sports issuing blanket bans.

Discussing the competition in Mongolia, the federation issued a statement saying its decision “gives equal chances to all athletes, to rise above discrimination, politics, conflicts or any other non-sport related matter.”

IJF president Marius Vizer added that “the sport of judo is a sport of education. It teaches values such as respect, friendship, courage, mutual aid. Judo has always strived to avoid political interference or any form of discrimination, against athletes or any other judo representatives.

“In our philosophy and communication, we often refer to ourselves, the global judo community, as the judo family and this is based on the very principles that guide us: friendship and respect.”

At the onset of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the IJF did move to strip noted judo fanatic Vladimir Putin – who is a black belt in the sport – of his role as honorary president of the organization as well as other titles.

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