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Gymnastics body gives neutral status to 30 Belarusians but path to Paris Olympics is still unclear

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Gymnastics Federation has granted neutral status to 30 athletes and officials from Belarus allowing them to take part in international competitions, although it is unclear how they could qualify for the Paris Olympics.

The only Belarusian gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, trampoline gymnast Ivan Litvinovich, was one of the 14 athletes on the FIG list of people given neutral status.

Russian and Belarusian were banned from most sports following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Belarus supports. But the International Olympic Committee asked sports governing bodies last year to look at integrating individuals from Russia and Belarus back into competitions as neutral athletes as this year's Paris Games approached. In order to be eligible for neutral status, athletes and officials must not have publicly supported the war nor have ties to military and state security agencies.

However, the European governing body for gymnastics decided in December to maintain its ban on Russian and Belarusians from its events in defiance of a FIG decision advising they could return this year. That makes it unclear whether any of the athletes approved by FIG on Monday will be able to compete in Olympic qualifying events.

The athletes also include rhythmic gymnast Alina Harnasko, who took bronze in Tokyo in 2021.

The FIG list did not specify whether any Belarusian applications were rejected, and did not say why no Russians have yet been approved.

“This list is not definitive and will be continually updated,” the governing body said. “The FIG will not provide details on any individual applications.”

Russians and Belarusians were excluded from two gymnastics world championship editions — key qualifiers for Paris — since the war started in February 2022, and exclusion from the 2024 European Championships removes one of their few options left.

Some Olympic qualifying events in the gymnastics World Cup series also are scheduled to be held in Europe.

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AP coverage of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games