ProCyclingUK 2024 Logo Alternate

Russian Olympic cycling medalists barred from races for lack of neutrality during war in Ukraine

PRF23 - Maria Novolodskaya

Russian track cyclists Anastasiia Voinova and Mariya Novolodskaya, both Tokyo Olympic medal winners, have been declared unfit to compete from 1st June 2023 due to breaches in rules regarding their neutrality amid the Ukraine conflict.

As of Thursday, the International Cycling Union (UCI), the sport’s governing body, has stated that they will not be able to participate in UCI events, as indicated in a document published on the UCI website. The UCI world championships are set to take place this August in Glasgow, Scotland.

The UCI clarified in the document that this ineligibility would persist as long as the ‘ad hoc rules’ concerning Russia and Belarus remain active, although it did not go into specific detail regarding the infringements.

An update to the rules, published on May 3 and effective from Thursday, stipulates that “the strictest neutrality towards the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus at any time since the beginning of the war in Ukraine is required” to compete in UCI events.

The UCI has the power to deny neutral status to riders or officials linked to the Russian or Belarusian military, or those who have expressed support for the conflict in interviews or social media posts. Participation in pro-war demonstrations or showcasing the ‘Z’ symbol associated with the invasion of Ukraine may also result in disqualification.

In the 2021 Olympics, Anastasia Voinova secured bronze in the women’s team sprint on the track, having previously achieved silver in the same event at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. The 30-year-old cyclist is also a multiple world champion.

Maria Novolodskaya won bronze in the women’s madison at Tokyo and could miss the 2024 Paris Olympics, during which she will turn 25. The Lifeplus-Wahoo rider had previously been identified as being effectively part of the Russian army due to funding links and has an honorific rank of ensign. Novolodskaya herself has communicated that she intends to sever those ties in May 2023 but that appears to have not taken place fast enough to avoid being included on the UCI’s list this month.

The International Olympic Committee has called on the governing bodies of Paris Olympics sports to consider the reintegration of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials into international events — excluding team sports and only after they have been assessed for neutral status. The UCI has also declared Aleksei Obydennov, who competed at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, ineligible. Russian cyclists Gleb Syritsa and Aleksei Medvedev have been granted eligibility to race.