BAA Is Right to Ban Russian Runners

We applaud the decision of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) to ban runners from Russia and Belarus from competing in this year’s Boston Marathon.

We recognize that the move casts a wide net and may serve to punish ordinary Russian citizens who have had nothing to do with Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.

However, we wish to make two points:

First, athletic and other organizations all over the world have banned Russian nationals from participating in their events. If the BAA uniquely were to do nothing, it would send the signal that the BAA tacitly was indifferent to the barbarous Russian invasion. Obviously, that is a message that no organization should be sending.

Second, to those who suggest that sports transcends political differences and ideologies, we say this: Get your heads out of the clouds.

There may have been a time when “sport” could turn a blind eye to what was happening in the world. But the reality is that athletics long have been used as political vehicles, starting with Hitler in the 1936 Olympics, the Soviet-bloc during the Cold War, and the Russian government itself when it hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics and devised an elaborate scheme to conceal the doping of its athletes.

Most recently, Russia has detained U.S. basketball star Brittany Griner in a Russian jail just as she was trying to leave the country, a move that can only be described as politically-motivated by the Putin regime.

In our view, every single person and entity in the civilized world — especially the sports world — should take the opportunity to make clear our united opposition to the barbarism of the invasion in Ukraine.

Imposing sanctions on Russian athletes is just an extension of the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia itself that likewise are impacting ordinary Russian citizens.

Yes, it may be true that individual Russians are collateral damage, so to speak, of our broad-ranging sanctions policies. But the effect upon them, which hopefully will trickle up to the Russian government, pales in comparison to the suffering of the millions of innocent Ukrainian citizens who are the victims of the genocidal war being waged by the Russian government.

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