The IOC has allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to its competitions as individual neutrals under certain conditions ©Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has insisted the Group of Seven (G7) leaders' statement on the war in Ukraine is "fully aligned" with its position relating to Russia and Belarus' participation in international sport.

Leaders from upcoming Olympic hosts France, Italy and the United States as well as Britain, Canada, Germany and Japan and the European Union expressed renewed support for Ukraine and fresh sanctions on Russia when they gathered in Hiroshima last week.

International sport was on the agenda, with the G7 declaring it is "paying attention to the impact of Russia’s aggression on international sport" - a line not referenced in the IOC's statement.

"While fully respecting the autonomy of sporting organisations, we are focused on fair sporting competition as well as on ensuring that Russian and Belarusian athletes are in no way appearing as representatives of their states," the G7 leaders said.

The IOC said this was "fully aligned" with its position, with President Thomas Bach expressing his support for the G7's stance.

"The IOC warmly welcomes the G7 support for the autonomy of sport and for the IOC’s recommendations on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport, only as individual, neutral athletes," the German official said.

"This commitment to the autonomy of sports organisations comes at a crucial time, when it is threatened by a few Governments.

"Therefore, we are very grateful to the G7 leaders for their unequivocal statement."

President Thomas Bach said the IOC is
President Thomas Bach said the IOC is "very grateful to the G7 leaders for their unequivocal statement" ©Getty Images

The participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions has proved a controversial issue since Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Several sports have loosened restrictions to allow them to compete as individual neutrals, after the IOC lifted its recommended outright ban in March in favour of a stance which blocks those supporting the war in Ukraine or affiliated to the military and bans teams.

Ukraine's Government has been angered by its stance and vowed to boycott any Paris 2024 Olympics qualifiers where Russian and Belarusian athletes are present.

The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes has disrupted several events in Europe as they continue to have difficulty travelling to much of the continent.

Bach has previously blasted European Governments opposed to the IOC's stance as "deplorable", and claimed it represents a "middle ground" because of criticism from Russia and Ukraine.

He addressed the situation in European and other opposing countries, which the IOC argued amounted to "going beyond" its "very strict" recommendations and "putting in place obstacles to prevent athletes from their own countries from participating in international competitions, and against organisers of international competitions on their territory".

"The IOC sincerely hopes that these countries will take this G7 statement into serious consideration so that international sport can once again live up to its mission to unite the world in peaceful competition," Bach added.

G7 leaders said they are
G7 leaders said they are "paying attention to the impact of Russia’s aggression on international sport" after their gathering in Hiroshima ©Getty Images

Rob Koehler, director general of the Global Athlete group which has called for a continued ban on competitors from Russia and Belarus, responded to the IOC's stance by arguing "the autonomy of sport allows the [IOC] to operate without oversight and accountability".

Critics argue Russian and Belarusian athletes would be used for political purposes by both nations and there should be no place for either country in international sport while the war in Ukraine is ongoing.

Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov on the other hand has renewed his opposition to the IOC's conditions, which he described as a "farce where the rights of our athletes are violated".

Archery, canoeing, cycling, fencing, golf, judo, modern pentathlon, shooting, skateboarding, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon and wrestling have all permitted a return for Russian and Belarusian athletes under neutral conditions, but athletics, badminton, equestrian, sport climbing and surfing have refused to ease their stance.

The IOC has said a final decision on Russian and Belarusian participation at Paris 2024 has not yet been taken, but Bach last week said he "wants athletes from all 206 IOC National Committees to be able to participate".