What do the UCI's rules for Russian and Belarusian teams and riders actually mean?

Cycling's governing body announced sanctions on teams and riders in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Gazprom-RusVelo team 2022
The Gazprom-RusVelo team at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana this year
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday night cycling's governing body, the UCI, revealed a range of sanctions imposed on Russian and Belarusian teams and riders in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

These range from Russia and Belarus national teams not being allowed to compete in UCI races, to the name, flag, anthem and acronyms of the two nations not being permitted at any event.

The sanctions, however, stopped short of stopping individual Russian and Belarusian athletes being allowed to compete for international teams in races.

What has the UCI decided?

Following the International Olympic Committee's call for international sporting federations and organisers to prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes from taking part in their events, the UCI has not banned individual athletes from competing. Instead, it has stripped registered teams from the two nations of their right to race.

This means that all teams that are Russian or Belarusian flagged squads can no longer compete in UCI races, and have been stripped of their UCI Team status.

Russian and Belarusian national teams have been banned from taking part in UCI events, such as the Track Nations Cup and the World Championships. 

Furthermore, all races in Russia and Belarus, including their National Championships, have been removed from the UCI's calendar.

Also, the "appearance of all emblems, names, acronyms, flags and anthems linked to Russia and Belarus are prohibited at all events". 

Who is affected by the measures?

Well, to start off with, the national teams of Russia and Belarus are prevented from taking part in UCI events. This means, if these measures stay in place, there will be no Russian team at the World Championships in Australia this September. 

There are six UCI teams that are affected by the measure: ProTeam Gazprom-RusVelo, men's Continental Teams Team Vozrozhdenie, CCN Factory Racing and Minsk Cycling Club, the Women's Continental Team Minsk Cycling Club, and the Track Team Marathon–Tula Cycling Team.

Gazprom-RusVelo are the most high-profile team to be impacted. Just last week, they won a stage of the UAE Tour through Mathias Vacek and the intermediate sprint jersey through Dmitrii Strakhov. They were due to take part in the Trofeo Laigueglia on Wednesday before the UCI's decision. 

Now all 21 of its riders are prevented from taking part in UCI races unless they find a non-Russian team to ride for. This includes former Tour de France and Giro d'Italia stage winner Ilnur Zakarin.

The national champions of Russia and Belarus will be unable to race in their special jerseys. In road races, this affects Artem Nych, Stanislau Bazhkou, Tatsiana Sharakova, and Seda Krylova; in time trials it affects Aleksandr Vlasov, Yauheni Karaliok, Sharakova and Tamara Dronova-Balabolina. 

However, only Vlasov and Dronova-Balabolina currently race for teams that are still allowed to race according to the UCI's measures. It does mean that if Vlasov races Paris-Nice as scheduled, he will not be able to race in his Russian champion's skinsuit  on the stage four time trial.

All athletes from these two countries will only be able to race under special neutral status, meaning that in results their nationality will not be referred to and in the event of a victory, their national anthem will not be played.

While all races in Russia and Belarus have been withdrawn from the 2022 calendar, these five races were unlikely to attract many international teams or riders before the decision.

Aleksandr Vlasov

Aleksandr Vlasov in his Russian champion's kit during the time trial at the UAE Tour last week

(Image credit: Getty Images)

>>> Who are the Gazprom-RusVelo cycling team and how are they linked to the Russian government?

What is still allowed?

Individual Russian and Belarusian athletes can still race, given that they are not part of a team from one of those two countries. This means Bora-Hansgrohe's Aleksandr Vlasov could still ride Paris-Nice next week, as he is a Russian at a German team. Furthermore, Canyon-SRAM's Alena Amialiusik is still able take to the start line at Strade Bianche, as she is a Belarusian at a German team.

The UCI statement says: "Russian and Belarusian licence-holders are authorised to take part in events on the UCI International Calendar with their respective teams provided they are registered with a UCI Team that is neither Russian nor Belarusian. Russian and Belarusian riders can also participate in UCI International Calendar events if individual registration is authorised."

The decision to not issue a blanket ban is in order to balance all interests, the UCI said. It continued: "It is a question of taking into account the contractual rights of the riders and teams concerned, and not to unjustly penalise teams that are not Russian or Belarusian."

Special measures to allow riders and staff members of Russian and Belarusian teams with another squad are being looked into; therefore a rider for Gazprom-RusVelo like Mathias Vacek (who is Czech) might find another option to keep racing this season.

Furthermore, a special regulation has been enabled to allow "Russian and Belarusian licence-holders with multiple nationalities to request a change to their sporting nationality without any restriction". 

This would help a rider like Ineos Grenadiers' Pavel Sivakov, who has dual Russian-French nationality. He could declare for France and therefore be in contention for the World Championships should he so wish.

Russian and Belarusian members of UCI bodies and commissions "may continue to serve as long as they are not directly implicated in the violation of the Olympic Truce". This means the Russian billionaire Igor Makarov, a member of the UCI Management Committee, can continue to hold his position.

What has the reaction been?

So far, the teams affected have not issued a response. Gazprom-RusVelo and Minsk Cycling Club have been contacted for a reaction, but have remained silent. 

The Russian Cycling Federation released a statement saying it "regrets" the UCI's decision.

It read: "The Russian Cycling Federation regrets that a decision was made regarding the removal of Russian athletes from international competitions. The Presidium of the FVSR will soon discuss a decision to strengthen the internal Russian calendar and work out the issue of holding races deprived of international status in the format of Russian starts. 

"The FWSR also hopes to receive detailed information on the neutral status for athletes in the near future."

Bora-Hansgrohe's general manager Ralph Denk said the UCI had provided "clear rules" with regard to Russian athletes. Aleksandr Vlasov rides for his team.

He said: "We welcome this, as we condemn any form of aggression or violence, but are of the opinion that blameless athletes should be judged according to their own personal behaviour and not solely on their nation of origin.”

Trek-Segafredo's Latvian rider Toms Skujiņš tweeted: "This needs recognition. Thank you for doing the right thing [UCI]."

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