European federation rejects gymnasts from Russia, Belarus

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- The governing body of gymnastics in Europe voted against allowing Russian and Belarusian gymnasts to return to international competitions, calling into question how they could qualify for next year's Olympics.

The International Gymnastics Federation is allowing Russians and Belarusians to return as "individual neutral athletes" without national symbols starting Jan. 1, in line with the International Olympic Committee's recommendations. However, European Gymnastics said in a statement that its members voted Friday not to comply with that plan.

The FIG told The Associated Press in an emailed statement that it "takes note of the decision" by European Gymnastics.

"Although this may have an impact on Olympic qualification through continental championships, the FIG cannot provide any further details on this until all the relevant stakeholders have been consulted," it said.

Russia and its ally Belarus have already missed many qualification events for Olympic gymnastics since the FIG barred them following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

The European championships next year were expected to be a key opportunity for Russia to qualify gymnasts for the few remaining places at the Paris Olympics. European countries also host some events in the FIG World Cup series, which is another path to qualifying for the Olympics.