UWW has decided to readmit wrestlers from Russia and Belarus as neutrals ©Getty Images

United World Wrestling (UWW) has announced that it will readmit athletes from Russia and Belarus to international competition as neutrals.

After an extraordinary meeting, the UWW Bureau said it "unanimously favoured the return of wrestlers to competition from Russia and Belarus under the conditions of participation set forth by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)".

It follows the IOC Executive Board recommending last week that individual Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to return to competition, if they are not openly in support of the invasion of Ukraine or affiliated to the military.

Nenad Lalovic, the UWW President, is a member of the IOC Executive Board.

"Wrestling, as a sport, has a unique ability to bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together," Lalovic said. 

"It has great potential to help in peacebuilding and tolerance among different communities, countries and regions." 

The decision was welcomed by Russian Wrestling Federation vice-president Natalya Yarygina who claimed the sport had suffered in their absence.

"Everyone wants our participation, because the interest in wrestling without us is falling," she said, according to Russia's state news agency TASS.

"Just look at the views of the competitions in social networks, there is no competition, there is no interest."

UWW President Nenad Lalovic has insisted wrestling has a
UWW President Nenad Lalovic has insisted wrestling has a "unique ability" to bring people together ©Getty Images

Yargygina, the widow of Ivan Yarygin who won Olympic freestyle gold at heavyweight in 1972 and 1976, described the UWW as "a rather friendly team, everyone supported us".

"Today we were happy for our youth, they will be able to take part in tournaments without any restrictions, after all, this is our future."

UWW said it would create an independent panel to verify the eligibility of wrestlers in senior categories.

Wrestlers in under-15 and under-17 competitions will be permitted to compete immediately.

The "neutral" Russian Olympic Committee team won four wrestling gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, a figure exceeded only by host nation Japan.

At the 2021 UWW World Championships in Oslo, the Russian Wrestling Federation finished top of the team rankings in the men's freestyle and Greco-Roman events.

They won 18 medals of which four were gold.

The UWW ban on officials from the two countries ha been maintained, and no internationally sanctioned events are permitted in either country.

UWW also "reiterated the organisation's commitment to promoting peace and brotherhood through sports and its solidarity with the people of Ukraine".

It insisted it "will continue to support the Ukrainian wrestling community, as it has done since the war broke out".

Other sports such as fencing, table tennis and taekwondo have also adhered to the IOC's recommendation.

Ukraine's Government has said its athletes will not compete in any qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Olympics if Russians are involved.