Independent board upholds ban of Russian and Belarusian teams from IIHF competitions

Team Russia gathers around goaltender Askarov Yaroslav prior to first period against team Sweden during IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action in Red Deer, Alta., Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

The independent International Ice Hockey Federation Disciplinary Board has rejected appeals from the Russian and Belarusian ice hockey federations, according to a statement released on Tuesday, upholding the bans from competition that the IIHF levied against the two nations amid their protracted invasion of Ukraine.

The IIHF’s decision to suspend Russia and Belarus from every age category, enacted on Feb. 28, marked one of the most resounding sports-related actions taken during the war’s early stages. The 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship, which was slated to be played in Novosibirsk and Omsk, was also pulled out of Russia.

The Russian Ice Hockey Federation called the decision “discriminatory” shortly after, saying that it was contesting the ruling.

However, the Disciplinary Board overturned the appeal, saying that the decision the IIHF made was not a sanction but was instead a safety policy, which the international governing body had the right to adopt and implement under its statutes. Given the safety-focused nature of the decision, the board said, the policy was found to be “not discriminatory and was proportionate.”

Russia and Belarus are eligible to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, though it is not known at this time if they will.

“We welcome the decision of the independent IIHF Disciplinary Board, which supports the IIHF Council’s decision to disallow the participation of the Russian and Belarusian teams and to withdraw the two World Championship program events that were scheduled to take place in Russia next season,” Luc Tardif, the IIHF president, said. “We maintain that this decision was taken out of concern for the safety and well-being of players, staff, officials, media, and spectators, and we are pleased that the Board has agreed.”

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