“Hockey is the number one sport in Russia, it will affect them”, judge Luc Tardif, president of the International Federation which excluded Russians and Belarusians

In recent hours, many federations have taken a stand on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which began on Thursday 24 February. In the wake of the International Football Federation, the hockey federation announced on Monday February 28, to suspend the Russian and Belarusian selections for the next World Cup. For franceinfo: sport, Luc Tardif, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), returns to this strong decision.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has suspended the Russian and Belarusian selections from the next World Cup. How was this decision made?

Luc Tardif: We did not hesitate to take these new and heavy sanctions, even if it is not with lightness of heart that we sanction the athletes for this fact. But we wanted to take part in this international sporting pressure and express ourselves on this situation in Ukraine. The problem in this context is that if we want to be effective, we must not take half measures.

We quickly realized that diplomatic agreements between Russia and Ukraine would be complicated to implement. The confrontation also promises to be long. We knew that, whatever happened, the situation was going to become more complex, particularly in terms of visas and transport.

On our scale, we have sporting deadlines that are emerging, with, in the short term, the men’s world championships in two months, then in the medium term, the women’s world championship next August, as well as the junior competitions. Above all, our objective was to allow the organization of the world championships to be 100% safe, in an atmosphere conducive to sport.

“Being in solidarity with Ukraine”

A few hours before your announcement, the IOC “recommended” to the federations not to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in their competitions. Did you wait for his position before announcing yours?

We followed the IOC’s recommendations, but we went further. He hoped that eventually Russian athletes could participate in competitions under a neutral banner, as was the case in previous international competitions.

But we really wanted to show solidarity with Ukraine, because what is happening there… The Ukrainian champions cannot play in the world championships because of this conflict. Some athletes are currently fighting to defend their country, their land. So I don’t see why Russians and Belarusians could participate in this competition.

Ice hockey is very popular in Russia. Vladimir Putin was the first to call you when you were elected to the IIHF in September 2021 to congratulate you. In this context, this suspension is therefore all the stronger.

Yes, this is a very tough decision, because hockey is the number one sport in Russia. Even if our action will not change the face of the world, I nevertheless believe that it will touch them. We have already seen it since yesterday, the reactions show it well.

Moreover, the international federation was not the only one to react. In the hockey world, international competitions that are organized outside the IIHF, and friendly matches, have also been canceled. So there really is solidarity. And we will continue to follow developments in Ukraine.

Do you think of other sanctions if the situation has deteriorated further?

Yes, we have a second round of sanctions available depending on the evolution of the conflict. We are indeed thinking of the suspension of leaders, and of withdrawing from the Russians the organization of the world championships in 2023, planned in Saint Petersburg. We allow ourselves time to see, depending on the evolution of the conflict. We will soon have a congress to decide on this subject.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is due to announce its decision on the participation of Russian athletes on Wednesday March 2. According to you, the logical continuation would be to exclude these athletes from the event which begins on Friday March 4?

I don’t want to take a stand, and the CIP is big enough to handle that. But, indeed, there would be a certain logic.

Leave a Comment