Ban advances on playing against Russian, Belarusian sports teams

Latvia's national teams will be prohibited from playing against the national teams of Russia and Belarus, according to amendments to the Sports Law, which were supported in the Saeima on Thursday, December 21, in the second reading. The ban will also apply if athletes from these countries participate under so-called 'neutral status'.

The amendments to the law also provide that Latvia will not be allowed to organize team sports national team competitions involving the national teams of Russia or Belarus or their 'neutral' proxies. This will apply to both adult, youth and junior competitions.

The main goal of the amendments to the law is to re-emphasize Latvia's solidarity with Ukraine and to fundamentally block any Russian efforts to legitimize its war crimes through the sports industry.

"The basic idea of ​​the amendments to the Sports Law is to establish at the level of national legislation that Latvian team sports teams, for example in basketball, football or hockey, cannot play mutual games with the teams of the aggressor countries - Russia and Belarus - either on their own or on a neutral field," said Dāvis Mārtiņš Daugavietis (New Unity), chair of the Education, Culture and Sports subcommittee of the Saeima. 

"This means that in the case that a Latvian national team is drawn to play against Russia or Belarus, the international sports organizations will have to respect Latvian legislation," explained Daugavietis.

However, the wording of the bill currently does not regulate the participation of Latvian athletes in the Olympic Games. The decision on participation there will be made by the Latvian Olympic Committee.

In order for the amendments to enter into force, they must be considered and supported in a third and final reading which is likely to take place in early 2024.

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