Russian Olympic cross-country skiing champion Aleksandr Bolshunov has accused the West of blaming Russia for all the world’s problems, while insisting the sport should not be undermined by politics.
Bolshunov won five medals – including three gold – at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022, but now finds himself banned from international competitions with his fellow Russians due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Speaking to Norwegian broadcaster TV2, the 25-year-old said he was upset at missing major events, especially as sport is meant to bring people together.
“I am certainly disappointed that we cannot participate in the World Cup and the World Championship”, says Bolshunov.
“Those [athletes] who are now going to participate could perhaps put themselves in our place. I would like to see how they react.
“Western people should stop blaming us Russians for everything. Maybe we need support instead? Sport is peace, sport should bring people together and nothing more,” adds the skier.
Discussing the situation in Ukraine, Bolshunov suggested that it was far too simplistic to blame Russia.
“Regarding the situation we have in the world at the moment, I believe that all states involved in the conflict are to blame,” said the Olympic star, who also won four medals at the PyeongChang Games in 2018.
“First and foremost, this needs to stop now, and world leaders need to sit down at the negotiating table and agree on a way forward. I don’t think that will happen now, but I hope it will not be long.
In the absence of a traditionally strong Russian presence due to the ban by ski authority FIS, Bolshunov said international events would be “played without competitive wrestling.”
Russian and Belarusian athletes stay away from global competitions in a wide variety of sports after an initial recommendation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in late February that they should not be invited due to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine .
Russian sports officials and figures have frequently denounced the bans as discriminatory and undermining the principle that sport is outside of politics.
It was also noted that athletes from many other countries whose governments have launched overseas military campaigns over the years – notably the United States and its NATO allies – have not faced similar penalties.