IOC President Thomas Bach arrives for a press conference. GETTY IMAGES

A recording of International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, the victim of a prank call from someone claiming to be a senior official of the African Union Commission, has been posted online. 

The caller asked questions about the political screening of athletes with Russian passports before they are admitted to the 2024 Olympics, the Russian-backed multi-sport event, the Friendship Games, and the disqualification of Kamila Valieva.

The International Olympic Committee revealed that its president Thomas Bach had been the victim of a hoax call on 22 March, amid rising tensions with Russia over restrictions on its athletes competing at the Paris Games. On the same day, WADA confirmed that the Polish president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Witold Banka, had also been the target of a hoax call from Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, known as Vovan and Lexus.

Vovan and Lexus posted a video on 2 April pretending to be the chairman of the African Union Commission and speaking to the head of the Olympic Committee during a video conference with the organisation. Bach said in the call that the IOC had set up a special panel to monitor the media and the internet and ensure that Russian athletes who had made political statements in support of their government could not take part in the Olympics.

Relations between Russia and the IOC have deteriorated  sharply in the run-up to the Olympics, where Russian and Belarusian athletes will compete as neutrals, without their flags and anthems, because of the war in Ukraine. They have also been banned from taking part in the opening parade. "We are punishing those responsible for what is happening, there can be no Russian anthem, no raising of the flag. The Russian Olympic Committee, after we suspended them, made a series of aggressive statements that this is discrimination, fascism."

The IOC has publicly announced the creation of a review panel to assess the eligibility of any Russian or Belarusian athlete who qualifies for Paris. To be cleared to compete, athletes must not have actively supported the war in Ukraine and must not be under contract to a military or security service.

"We have a special monitoring commission at IOC level, which also works with an independent company. And they monitor the Internet, the media and public statements. So if an athlete appears somewhere with such statements, he cannot take part in the Games," Bach is heard saying in English on the 42-minute recording. "We have also offered - not only offered, but asked - the Ukrainian side to provide us with their knowledge of the behaviour of such (Russian) athletes or officials."

Mistakenly thinking that he was talking to an African sports official, Bach openly opposed the Friendship Games. "These games (Friendship Games) are presented by Russia as games of the President of Russia. If you could use your authority to do something for the African states, we would be very, very grateful to you. You must be aware that by taking part in these Friendship Games you are taking sides. What kind of risks are we talking about? Let's take the Olympic Games."

"The Friendship Games must not endanger the Olympic Games. It is a risk for the whole sports system. These are political games, like the Spartacus Games in the Soviet Union. I think you could protect the integrity of sport and tell African athletes at a higher political level that Russia is presenting these games as the games of the Russian president. His decree is the basis of these games. It is his government that is organising everything.”

"At the moment there is no recognised anti-doping organisation. Every competitor is exposed to a high risk by taking part in a competition where there is no reliable anti-doping system. For all these reasons, we are categorically opposed to these games. Last year, before the last BRICS Games in South Africa, we made sure that they had no resonance in the world of sport."

Bach has already discussed the situation with his European counterparts. And he even plans to enlist the support of French President Emmanuel Macron. He says he will support the boycott of the Friendship Games. "I will make sure that President Macron supports this EU action. I will contact him. It will be the Vice-President of the European Commission, the representative of Greece, Mr Margaritis Schinas. He is responsible for sport and he will contact his representatives and they will prepare a general communiqué."

Bach also spoke about the Games of the Future held in Kazan, describing the first multi-sport event as "games for one person". The IOC President also commented on the invitation of figure skater Kamila Valieva to be the guest of honour at the opening ceremony. Afterwards she even had to make a statement and thank the president of the Russian Federation,Vladimir Putin, for her great breakthrough that has revolutionised world sport. It's simply disgusting," Bach pointed out.

"This is the position of the Russian government, which has been defending her since the investigations and accusations began. It seems wrong because even the head of state said she was innocent. And even after there was a court decision in this case, the Russian government repeated it and even gave her a special welcome and a special honour. They said that they supported her and that this court decision was wrong and biased. It is really terrible what is happening there," said Thomas Bach.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted on Telegram that Bach had "made a political-administrative and obviously criminal plot with a certain party" - meaning Ukraine - "to exclude strong sports competitors from international competitions", adding that "the relationship of IOC President Bach with the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine and its officials, and the admission of a 'request to monitor Russian athletes' should be the subject of a thorough investigation."