According to the amendments to the Sports Law adopted by the Saeima on Thursday, 1 February, Latvian national teams representing team sports will not be allowed to play against Russian and Belarusian national teams. The ban will also apply if athletes from these countries participate in competitions in neutral status.
The amendments to the law also provide that in Latvia will not host or organise a national team sports matches in which the national teams of Russia or Belarus participate under their flag or in neutral status. This applies to adult, youth, and junior competitions.
The main objective of the amendments to the law is to reiterate Latvia’s solidarity with Ukraine and to block any attempts by Russia to legitimise its war crimes through the sports sector.
“The basic idea of the amendments to the Sports Law is to stipulate at the level of national legislation that Latvian national teams representing team sports games, such as basketball, football or hockey, cannot play neither domestically, nor in neutral locations with teams from the aggressor countries – Russia and Belarus,” said Dāvis Mārtiņš Daugavietis, Chair of the Sports Subcommittee of the Education, Culture and Science Committee of the Saeima. “This means that if the Latvian national team, as a result of random selection, has to play against Russia or Belarus, international sports organisations will have to respect Latvian legislation,” Daugavietis explained.
At the meeting of the Education, Culture and Science Committee responsible for the drafting of the amendments, MPs previously emphasised that the international sports community tends to make decisions that could “re-enter” Russian and Belarusian teams into international tournaments. The authors of the amendments have already noted that we can find ourselves in a situation where Latvia is drawn in one group with one of these teams. Without changing the law, Latvian teams in such a situation would have been forced to play, accept technical defeat or pay a fine.
The amendments do not regulate the participation of Latvian athletes in the Olympic Games. The decision to participate in them is taken by the Latvian Olympic Committee. “It should be noted that the teams of the aggressor countries can no longer qualify for the Olympic Games,” said Daugavietis.
As previously noted by the authors of the amendments, the adopted provisions had been discussed with representatives of the sports sector.
Saeima Press Service