Russians and Belarusians who qualify in their sport for the Paris 2024 Olympics can take part as neutrals without flags, emblems, or anthems at the event next year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Friday.
The athletes had initially been banned from competing internationally following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.
In March, however, the IOC issued a first set of recommendations for international sports federations to allow Russian and Belarusian competitors to return and they have since done so in most events.
"The Executive Board (EB) of the IOC has decided that Individual Neutral Athletes (AINs) who have qualified through the existing qualification systems of the International Federations (IFs) on the field of play will be declared eligible to compete at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 in accordance with the conditions outlined below," the Olympic body said in a statement.
"Individual Neutral Athletes are athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport."
The neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus will only compete in individual sports and no teams for the two countries will be allowed to participate in Paris.
The IOC, which in October suspended the Russian Olympic Committee for recognizing regional organizations from four territories annexed from Ukraine, also said athletes who actively support the war in Ukraine would not be eligible.
It also said no Russian or Belarusian government or state official would be invited to or accredited for Paris 2024.
But athletes, it added, should not be punished for the actions of their governments.
"The protection of the rights of individual athletes to participate in competitions despite the suspension of their National Olympic Committee is a well-established practice, respecting human rights," the IOC said.
Ukraine has opposed the presence of Russian competitors, even as neutrals, at the Paris Olympics.
Out of 4,600 athletes globally who have qualified for the Paris Games so far, eight are Russians and three hold Belarusian passports.
More than 60 Ukrainians had qualified. A total of about 11,000 competitors will take part at the Games next year.
Athletics, the Games' biggest sport, already had a long-standing ban on the Russian Athletics Federation due to the country's state-sponsored doping regime, but it did allow a number of Russian athletes to compete as neutrals if they could prove a doping-free background.
However, that option was also removed after the Ukraine invasion, with all Russians and Belarusians banned – a decision that was upheld by this year's Council meeting.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said that "all athletes, coaching staff, personnel and the whole entourage – to use an IOC expression – are excluded from World Athletics series of events for the foreseeable future because of the Ukraine situation."
Coe said it would have been "inconceivable" for Russians and Belarusians to have competed in this year's World Championships in Budapest and, speaking about the issues faced by Ukrainian athletes, said in August that "it is an intolerable situation and that's why I won't be changing my views anytime soon."
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