DIF President Hans Natorp believes Russian sporting leaders should be banned, not athletes ©ANOC

National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) President Hans Natorp has criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for continuing to spare Russian sporting leaders of sanctions while athletes remain banned.

Natorp came under fire from IOC President Thomas Bach for his comments at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly here today.

Bach criticised Natorp for using the phrase "the Russians", insisting that the IOC would "not paint everybody with the same brush because of the actions of their Government."

A video of the meeting shows that he misheard the Danish official who, in fact, said "Russian leaders".

The DIF is one of 11 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) that wrote to ANOC, expressing concerns over the participation of Russia and Belarus at the meeting.

Bach urged delegates to "respect the clear majority" of the ANOC General Assembly and claimed it was "not the time" to change its stance which recommends that sporting organisations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competition.

While athletes from the two countries remain banned, the IOC has not recommended that elected Russian and Belarusian officials lose their jobs.

IOC President Thomas Bach wrongly accused Natorp of using the term
IOC President Thomas Bach wrongly accused Natorp of using the term "Russians" ©ANOC

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the NOC of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) have also not been sanctioned.

Speaking after Bach's criticism, Natorp told insidethegames that the IOC should have taken a "different path" in response to the war in Ukraine.

"I think democracy is about having room for different opinions and obviously I disagree with us sanctioning the athletes and allowing the politicians to lead us to take part," Natorp, who competed in sailing when Seoul hosted the 1988 Olympic Games, said.

"You can have the dialogue in many different ways and my opinion is that athletes are the key, they are instrumental to what we do and it would be so much easier to have those who are absolutely the ones that are not responsible for the situation to start a discussion about how to include them again.

"If we had taken a firmer stance against higher levels in the organisations like the Russian sports leaders and politicians.

"Of course, I want the unity.

"I have the opinion that we should maybe have chosen another path but I also respect my position within the IOC community and Olympic family."

A letter signed by nine NOCs including the DIF urged the ANOC Executive Council to reconsider the involvement of Russia and Belarus at the General Assembly.

It was confirmed at the meeting that a further two NOCs were unhappy with their participation.

As the ROC and NOCRB continue to be fully recognised by the IOC, they are automatically members of ANOC and those among the 204 NOCs invited to the General Assembly.

Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov was present at the ANOC General Assembly ©Getty Images
Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov was present at the ANOC General Assembly ©Getty Images

"It is in my perspective not balanced to not to allow athletes to compete but to allow NOCs to be present," added Natorp.

"That’s my opinion and the Danish Olympic Committee’s opinion and that is somehow out of balance.

"It’s not up to me, I made my point, I note the speech and I noted the response.

"We wrote a letter to ANOC, emphasising our position.

"We have also written a resolution back to September 23 when we had a Nordic meeting back and that’s the common Nordic position."

When asked to respond to Bach’s criticism of his use of the word "Russians", Natorp added: "I don’t think I said the Russians.

"I said the Russian leaders and Russian and Belarusian NOCs."

The Latvian Olympic Committee confirmed to insidethegames that they boycotted the ANOC General Assembly due to the participation of Russia and Belarus.

insidethegames approached ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov for comment but he refused.