Rowing to allow 'limited number' of Russians in Olympic qualifier

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The governing body of rowing said Wednesday it will allow a "limited number" of Russians to return to competition for the world championships in September, a key event to qualify for next year's Paris Olympics.

World Rowing said athletes from Russia and Belarus would only be allowed to compete in the single sculls, coxless pairs -- both events which offer Olympic qualifying spots -- and the lightweight single sculls, which isn't an Olympic event. They will also be allowed in para-rowing single sculls and pairs. Larger crews like fours and eights won't be allowed.

World Rowing said there would be no national symbols for the Russian and Belarusian crews, "enhanced" anti-doping procedures and background checks. Those checks will "ensure that athletes who are associated with the military or war in any form, or have publicly supported the war, will be automatically excluded," the governing body said.

The move is largely in line with recommendations from the International Olympic Committee. It initially supported sports like rowing, which excluded Russians and Belarusians from sporting events on security grounds following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. The IOC now favors allowing them to compete as neutral athletes without national symbols as qualifying ramps up for the Olympics. The IOC does not recommend a return of Russians and Belarusians in team events.

Even a limited return of Russian rowers could prompt a boycott from Ukraine, which has a policy not to compete in national team sports events which readmit Russian athletes.