Delegates at the 40th EOC Seminar in Vienna were reminded by the IOC over ensuring athletes' participation in events should be free of "political interference" ©EOC

Delegates at the 40th European Olympic Committees (EOC) Seminar here have been given a reminder from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over ensuring athletes are not excluded from competition for political reasons.

Individual National Olympic Committees were also urged to follow IOC guidelines over the proper election of athlete representatives.

James Macleod, who took over this year as IOC Director NOC Relations Department and Olympic Solidarity, told delegates: “I want to offer a reminder to NOCs that the IOC upholds the principle that athletes should have equal access to their competitions, and that there should be no form of political interference in terms of participation.

“We have seen a number of instances of this in the last year.”

Macleod cited incidents involving athletes from Kosovo and Israel.

James Macleod, IOC Director NOC Relations Department and Olympic Solidarity, addresses delegates at the 40th EOC Seminar in Vienna this morning ©ITG
James Macleod, IOC Director NOC Relations Department and Olympic Solidarity, addresses delegates at the 40th EOC Seminar in Vienna this morning ©ITG

Taekwondo athletes from Israel were blocked from taking part in last year’s World Junior Championships in Tunisia and Israeli swimmers were unable to gain visas to take part in this year’s World Para Swimming Championships in Malaysia.

India’s denial to grant Kosovo boxer Donjeta Sadiku a visa for the 2018 Women’s World Boxing Championships prompted the IOC a strong letter to all international sports federations.

The then IOC Deputy Director General, Pere Miro, said: “The latest incident occurred in India, where the sporting delegation and athletes from Kosovo were not allowed to participate in a World Boxing Championship (this year and last year).

“This shows clearly that, until this matter is seriously addressed and resolved by the competent Indian authorities, India is not in a position to host international sporting events in which a sporting delegation from Kosovo is due to take part.

“In view of all of the above, the IOC strongly recommends that before allocating any international sports events to a country, all international sports organisations concerned make sure that all the necessary written guarantees are obtained from the local authorities/organiser to ensure equal treatment for the participating athletes and sporting delegations, in accordance with the basic principles of autonomy and non-discrimination which govern the Olympic Movement.”

Macleod also raised the issue of “athlete representatives claiming to represent their sports who haven’t been elected”, adding: “You need to make sure that your athletes are truly representative and elected in a proper way.

“The IOC will be giving guidelines to help you in that respect.”

At the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly in Tokyo last November, IOC President Thomas Bach criticised officials that "have not been elected by anybody in the sports world" who have spoken out in the recent debate on increased representation for athletes in major organisations.

Following antagonism between the Athletes' Commissions at the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency over the subject  of the reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, the IOC has stressed that its own group is elected rather than appointed.