Since March of 2022, the athletes from Russia and Belarus have been excluded from all the competitions organized by the World Aquatics (FINA at that time) and LEN due to the war in Ukraine.
But, the athletes from Russia and Belarus might be included in international competitions in aquatic sports in the following months. However, it doesn’t mean these two countries’ clubs and national water polo teams will return to the international stage soon.
At today’s meeting, the World Aquatics Bureau gave its support to the International Olympic Committee Executive Board’s statement from March 28 concerning the possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes taking part in international competitions.
The Bureau furthermore approved the formation of a task force to evaluate a pathway for individuals with Russian or Belarusian passports to compete in international aquatics events as neutral athletes.
“The task force will begin work immediately on developing a recommendation to the World Aquatics Bureau”, the World Aquatics announced and added that the task force would need time to come to its conclusions. It will report back at the next Bureau meeting in July 2023.
How does it impact the water polo teams of Russia and Belarus?
One of the IOC’s recommendations is that teams of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport cannot be considered. World Aquatics announced that the task force would consider potential participation only for individuals, following IOC’s recommendations.
Even if the final decision of World Aquatic Sports is in favor of the Russian and Belarusian athletes, the national water polo teams will not return to the stage either this year or in 2024.
They didn’t play at the 2022 World Championships and didn’t have a chance to qualify for the 2022 Europeans. Consequently, they didn’t have opportunities to qualify for this year’s World Championships in Fukuoka. They are absent from the World Cup.
A few days ago, LEN made the draw for the qualifications for the 2024 European Championships in Israel. The qualifications will be held in late June and will end before World Aquatics decide on the potential return of the athletes from these two countries.
Since Russia and Belarus won’t participate in the European Championships, they won’t be able to qualify for the 2024 World Championships in Doha and the Paris Olympic Games.It is almost sure that the water polo teams of the two countries will be absent from the international scene at least until the next edition of the World Aquatics Water Polo World Cup or even until the qualifications for the 2026 European Championships in Belgrade.
The next World Cup should be the qualification competition for the 2025 World Championships.
The junior and the youth teams might be allowed to play in international competitions earlier. Anyway, it’s difficult to foresight when the water polo teams will be able to compete before World Aquatics’ decisions that will depend on the development of the situation in the war in Ukraine.
In today’s announcement, World Aquatics said that it reaffirmed its steadfast commitment and concern for Ukraine, notably for Ukrainian aquatics athletes impacted by the invasion of their country.
“Ukrainian aquatics athletes continue to receive support from World Aquatics and its partners, notably LEN and the Ukraine Swimming, Diving, and Artistic Swimming Federations, for training and competition.
World Aquatics will continue to prioritise measures aimed at supporting the Ukrainian aquatics community, alongside national swimming federations, National Olympic Committees, the International Olympic Committee and LEN.”, World Aquatics announced.