Russian and Belarusian fencers are set to return to FIE events from mid-April, but travel restrictions remain in several European countries ©Getty Images

A planned women's foil International Fencing Federation (FIE) World Cup in Tauberbischofsheim in Germany has been cancelled because of the decision to allow the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

Delegates comfortably voted in favour of individual athletes, teams and officials from Russia and Belarus being allowed to compete at FIE events at an Extraordinary Congress last week, having been banned since the start of March last year because of the war in Ukraine.

However, travel restrictions have been imposed by several European countries on Russian and Belarusian arrivals, and Germany has opted to impose severe restrictions on issuing visas to Russian citizens.

With athletes from Russia and Belarus due to return to FIE competitions from mid-April, Tauberbischofsheim would have been one of the first World Cups they were able to compete in.

German Fencing Federation (DFB) President Claudia Bokel, the former chair of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission, said the FIE Extraordinary Congress decision had "triggered heated discussions both internally and externally".

The DFB Executive Committee concluded that the Tauberbischofsheim World Cup could not take place as scheduled from May 5 to 7 under the conditions required by the FIE.

DFB President and former IOC member Claudia Bokel said the national governing body
DFB President and former IOC member Claudia Bokel said the national governing body "would have liked a different result" at the FIE Extraordinary Congress, but it "accepts the decision" ©Getty Images

"As before, our solidarity is with the people in Ukraine who are suffering from the war of aggression," Bokel said.

"The German Fencing Federation accepts the decision of last Friday (March 10).

"We now want to give a clear signal that we would have liked a different result and that we still see a large number of open implementation questions from the world association, which is holding a tournament to make impossible.

"Accordingly, a later decision about admission would have been the only right way.

"As much as we would have liked to have presented our top athletes to the German audience and given them the opportunity to use the home field advantage on their way to the Olympic Games in Paris, we do {feel} the circumstances make another decision impossible."

Athens 2004 women's team épée silver medallist Bokel initially reacted to the FIE's decision by claiming "geopolitics" had an influence, and warned the result "could be a sign of further coordination in the next few weeks in the sports world".

However, the DFB did not explicitly confirm how it voted at the Extraordinary Congress, and has merely insisted the vote was "secret" and Bokel was "entitled to vote".

As IOC Athletes' Commission chair from 2012 until 2016, Bokel supported calls for Russia to be banned from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro following revelations about the country's state-sponsored doping programme.

The IOC ultimately decided against a blanket ban, with eligibility criteria for Russian athletes defined by International Federations.

Bokel later claimed she was "bullied internally" for her stance.

Russian Fencing Federation President Ilgar Mammadov said he was not surprised at the DFB's announcement, and insisted another country would be able to step in.

Former fencer and IOC President Thomas Bach grew up in Tauberbischofsheim, where the FIE World Cup has been cancelled ©Getty Images
Former fencer and IOC President Thomas Bach grew up in Tauberbischofsheim, where the FIE World Cup has been cancelled ©Getty Images

"This is not the first country, others will refuse," Mammadov told Russian state-run news agency TASS.

"Of course, they expected such decisions. 

"Those countries that cannot hold competitions on equal terms will not hold them, others will, they are in large numbers.

"I will not criticise my colleagues. 

"Even if the National Federation wants [to hold competitions], the policy of the Government does not allow us to come to their country. 

"Today it is Germany, tomorrow it may be another country. 

"We have normal relations with everyone. 

"At the Congress, I said, that we only want to fight on the lanes and win in a fair fight."

IOC President Thomas Bach, a men's foil team gold medallist, grew up in Tauberbischofsheim.

The IOC, which continues to recommend the non-participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes although it is controversially exploring a pathway for their return, said it "has taken note of the FIE decision".

Bach is reportedly close with Uzbek-born Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who led the FIE from 2008 until temporarily stepping down after being sanctioned by the European Union last year.

Greek official Emmanuel Katsiadakis has been Interim FIE President since then.

Under the FIE's plans, Russian and Belarusian fencers could return at the sabre Grand Prix in Seoul from April 27 to 29 and World Cups starting with the women's foil in Poznań from April 21, although Poland has put in place a ban on issuing visas to Russian nationals.