The wrestling organization clarifies the reason behind the participation of Russian champions in the world championships, despite their involvement in a pro-war rally.

GENEVA — Three Olympic champions from Russia were cleared to compete at the wrestling world championships this week because they were judged to have been pressured to appear at a pro-war rally in Moscow last year.

On Tuesday, the governing body of United World Wrestling provided an explanation regarding the eligibility of Zaurbek Sidakov, Zaur Uguev, and Abdulrashid Sadulaev, who were selected as neutral athletes from Russia. These wrestlers will be participating in the competition held in Belgrade, Serbia, with the aim of qualifying for the upcoming Paris Olympics in the following year.

All three won Olympic gold medals at the Tokyo Games held in 2021 and were paraded on stage at a flag-waving rally at Luzhniki Stadium in March 2022. It was attended by President Vladimir Putin three weeks after he ordered the military invasion of Ukraine.

The athletes’ presence there seemed likely to bar their return to competition with neutral status ahead of the Paris Games. The International Olympic Committee advised the governing bodies of each individual sport in March to exclude those who publicly supported the war.

United World Wrestling stated that after a vetting process, it was determined that the three wrestlers did not participate in certain events willingly.

The vetting panel of the governing body prohibited 30 athletes, coaches, and support staff from Russia and Belarus, who are military allies, from attending the championships in Belgrade from September 16th to 24th.

UWW stated that their disqualification was due to either publicly available information showing active support for the war or confirmed involvement in military activities.

Sidakov, Uguev, and Sadulaev, who were present at the Moscow rally alongside military personnel and fellow athletes donning the pro-war “Z” symbol on their uniforms, were found not guilty.

United World Wrestling, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, stated that it is not possible to definitively determine if these three champions actively and personally endorse the war and their government’s policy. Additionally, it was revealed that these athletes may be under pressure and are not participating in certain events willingly.

Russian wrestlers are participating in the global competition as independent individuals, devoid of their country’s colors, flag, or anthem.

On Monday, Sidakov secured his third world title in the 74-kilogram category by defeating Kyle Dake from the United States. Dake, who had previously won the championship twice, settled for a bronze medal in Tokyo.

Uguev did not achieve a medal in the 57-kilo category, however, he secured a spot for Paris through qualification. Sadulaev sustained an injury during his semifinal and was unable to compete in his Olympic playoff.

As of Tuesday, Russian wrestlers achieved a total of four medals in the men’s freestyle categories, with two of them being gold.

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