At a UCI Management Committee meeting taking place at the Cyclocross World Championships in The Netherlands this past week, the International Cycling Union announced it unanimously passed a resolution to considering allowing Russian and Belarusian cyclists to compete in international events, including the Gran Fondo World Championships, in 2023.
The UCI would be the first Olympic sports body to allow participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes after they were banned from international competition when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2020.
Under “strict conditions” the athletes would be required to compete as “neutrals” and could “not represent their state or any other organization in their country.”
UCI President David Lappartient, also warned that anyone who was “actively supporting the war in Ukraine” would not be able to participate.
It is unclear how the UCI would verify the “war support status” of amateur athletes, like those participating in the Gran Fondo World Championships.
The announcement was not universally welcomed.
Former professional cyclist Yaroslav Popovych, one of Ukraine’s best riders ever, condemned the announcement in an interview with Cycling Weekly.
“They [Russian’s] come to my country, kill people, kill kids, [and] destroy cities. For me, no. They don’t need to compete. If they change their sporting nationality, it’s OK, [but] they need to be really clear and hope they have not supported the war. But some people, some riders, apparently support the war and that’s not OK,” he said.
2019 was the last time Russian and Belarusian amateur cyclists competed in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. 105 athletes from the two countries participated, with Russian Vladimir Kuznetsov winning a gold medal in the Men’s 60-64 Time Trial.