Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who also heads the country’s National Olympic Committee, has been banned from attending the Games under temporary sanctions by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The Olympic leaders decided to take action against the Belarusian president after receiving multiple complaints about discrimination against the country’s athletes because of their political views. Two other sports officials faced similar restrictions, including Lukashenko’s son Viktor, who is the committee’s first vice-president.

Belarus has been rocked by widespread protests since the August presidential elections, which the opposition claimed were manipulated by Lukashenko. Some of the best athletes in the country have sided with protesters who authorities claim are being instigated by the West. As such, they have faced the consequences of the police’s actions.

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The leadership in Minsk “did not adequately protect Belarusian athletes from political discrimination within the NOC, its member associations or the sports movement,” said IOC President Thomas Bach when he announced the provisional sanctions on Monday.

Such behavior goes against the core principles of the Olympic Charter, which undermined the reputation of the entire Olympic movement, he added.

The IOC has also frozen all payments to the Belarusian NOC. The scholarships for the athletes preparing for the Olympics will from now on be transferred directly to them.

Bach pointed out that the sanctions against Lukashenko and the NOC would not affect Belarusian athletes or their chances of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, which were postponed in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic or the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing .

The IOC director also urged international sports federations to cancel all international events hosted by Belarus. This means that Minsk may lose the World Ice Hockey Championship next year. Bach said the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has already initiated proceedings against the head of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, who is also a member of the NOC.

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