UCI warns UK that banning Russians will hurt chances of hosting future events

UCI president David Lappartient reportedly says UK government does not trust the UCI will ensure Russian and Belarusian athletes will compete as neutrals in Scotland next month

Riders racing on a track
(Image credit: SW Pix)

Great Britain has been issued with a warning that its hardline stance against the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes will affect its chances of hosting major cycling events in the years to come.

According to a report from The Times, David Lappartient - the president of the Union Cycliste Internationale [UCI] - has written to the minister for sport, Stuart Andrew, and claimed that the UK government does not trust the UCI to ensure that Russian and Belarusian athletes will compete at the Glasgow World Championships as neutrals next month.

The letter from Lappartient is the latest sign of the evident backlash against the government’s insistence that Russian and Belarusian athletes - and support staff - must sign a separate written declaration that they do not, and will not, support the war in Ukraine or the Russian and Belarusian regimes.

Athletes also must confirm that they are not in receipt of any state funding.

Last week, the government was slammed by the International Olympic Committee [IOC] for its stance and the IOC subsequently blocked London from hosting a Paris 2024 qualifying event.

According to the Times, the letter penned by Lappartient suggests that the government’s requirements undermine the UCI’s authority to determine eligibility of its riders for major events. It also reportedly states that it would have been more efficient for the government to collaborate with the international governing body for cycling on background checks to ensure that riders have not supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“With the utmost recognition for the UK’s efforts and outstanding track record in hosting major international competitions, I feel compelled to convey our concern that measures like these could impact on the future assessment of bids from the UK for the organisation of UCI events,” Lappartient wrote.

“I sincerely believe that in any relationship, reciprocal trust is of the essence. The fact that the UK government has not shown signs of trust to our organisation will affect our trust in the UK’s commitment to the organisation of sporting events in coming years,” he continued.

Britain has been an important host nation for the UCI in recent years. As well as the upcoming first-ever combined World Championships in Glasgow, Britain played host to the UCI track Champions League competition last year. Its grand finale was held in London and will be once again this November.  

According to the Times, it's understood that it's expected that as few as a single Russian or Belarusian will compete in Scotland next month.  

In response to the letter from Lappartient and the UCI, a government spokesman said: “There is a clear consensus — from a coalition of like-minded nations, including the UK — that there should be no Russian and Belarusian state representation in sporting competitions whilst the war in Ukraine continues.

“At the request of national governing bodies, we provided guidance on how individual, self-funded athletes could compete in the UK on a neutral basis. This guidance respects the autonomy of sport, but makes clear that athletes should not actively support [Vladimir] Putin’s barbaric war.

“We will continue to work constructively with governing bodies, sporting federations and event organisers to deliver world-class sporting events here in the UK, and provide support where necessary.”

Another reason that the government came under fire from the IOC was due to its guidelines promising support for any British athlete who refuses to take part in events involving Russians and Belarusians, though the government insists that it is not advocating any boycott of future sporting events. 

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