Personally, I think that the decision of the IJF is incomprehensible and wrong, and also unethical in relation to the Ukrainian society and Ukrainian judo players.
Certainly, Russian players are not responsible for Russia’s criminal invasion of independent Ukraine. But even more innocent are ordinary citizens of Ukraine, where adults and children die every day and their country is ruined. Russia, apart from civilian buildings, also bombs hospitals, kindergartens and orphanages.
Russian athletes fly around the world, are friends with Ukrainian athletes, and train on the same camps. They know the world and the rules of democratic countries. They have access to reliable information objectively presenting the war and the tragedies that are currently happening in Ukraine. From my point of view, they owe the truth to their compatriots and Ukrainians. They should fight for a better peace and a better world with their attitude and in this way best identify with the values that are in our sport.
Now that the Russian players are training, the Ukrainian competitors are fighting for their homeland and are ready to give their lives for it. While the Ukrainian players will rebuild their homeland from the ruins, the Russian players will prepare for the European Championships and the Grand Slam, as well as for World Championships.
It is impossible to list all the Ukrainian judokas who stayed in their homeland and are fighting for independence, but it is enough to mention Daria Bilodid, Georgii Zantaraia and Roman Gontiuk. This is a real war and they declare that they will fight to the end, which means that we may never meet them again …
We all know how much Putin has done for our discipline and how much money is flowing from Russian sponsors. However, can we with a clear conscience continue to take them and pretend that the war does not concern us and we do not know what the truth is!
I do not think that players in the world would like to take financial rewards knowing that they are stained with the blood of the Ukrainians.
The Russian players are not personally responsible for the invasion, but as part of the Russian community they have a moral obligation to help their compatriots change political power and fight for peace in Ukraine, because as I said before, they know the truth better than many Russians. It is their duty to help transform Russia into a country that respects independence and respects other people.
During my career I have competed with many Russian and Ukrainian players. I have had very good contacts with many of them. All are wonderful, kind and friendly people. Same as others around the world. They have their dreams, ambitions and they just want to enjoy life. I stood on the podium of the world championship with Russian Vitaly Makarov and the European championship with Gennady Bilodid from Ukraine. They both became champions then, and I lost to them in both the semi-finals. I remember both of them as great masters, but above all as great people. I don’t think they want to shoot each other now. This war is not a war of two nations, but a sick ambition of a few people …
It seemed that after the Second World War, the whole world had already understood and remembered that war was pure evil. Unfortunately, for some people, power and their own ambitions are still more important than the lives of innocent people.
This is why I believe that the IJF’s decision is incorrect and it seems to me to be against the will of the judo world. Or maybe just organize a vote in which the judo world will determine whether or not it is in favor of allowing Russians to compete in judo.