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Challenge and Ironman Cancel Russia Events

World Triathlon had previously issued sanctions against the country.

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This is an ongoing story that will be updated as news changes.

UPDATED: March 2, 2022

On Friday, the International Olympic Committee called for all sporting events to be canceled or relocated from Russia and Belarus. This came three days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of military operations and a full-scale war invading Ukraine.

World Triathlon (formerly ITU) quickly followed suit with a statement that “strongly condemned” Russian military actions. “World Triathlon stands in absolute solidarity with the Ukraine triathlon family and the entire country at this time of grave international crisis,” reads the statement, before going on to urge any triathlete trying to leave Ukraine or any family willing to host those athletes to reach out to an email set-up specifically to help coordinate:

A spokesperson confirmed that while the outpouring of people willing to host Ukrainian families has been “overwhelming,” they have not yet had requests for assistance from any Ukrainian athletes, officials, or staff. It is understood there have been challenges leaving the country, said the spokesperson

However, it was not necessary for World Triathlon to cancel events in Russia—because they had already been canceled.

World Triathlon had previously placed sanctions against the country due to “the significant number of doping sanctions in Russia.” Part of those sanctions included Russian officials resigning from all World Triathlon and European Triathlon boards and the country being banned from hosting any events for one year, starting in December 2021. There are, of course, other races planned in the greater region—and officials said they were keeping an eye on the situation to ensure the safety of all athletes involved.

World Triathlon also announced on Monday that all Russian and Belarusian athletes would be banned. USA Triathlon officials also confirmed the U.S. will not be sending any athletes or officials to Russia for the foreseeable future.

That left the question: Will the other triathlon organizations (namely Challenge Family and the Ironman Group) cancel their planned events in Russia?

Both Challenge and Ironman had new races planned for the country later this year, in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Although initially both event were still moving forward, as of Wednesday morning both organizations have now canceled their races. Ironman also announced the ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes in their world championship events.

Over the weekend Challenge announced it had canceled its event in Moscow—writing, “Our local team in Moscow is against the invasion, as are we…”

Last year, Challenge announced its first Russian event in Moscow. After being canceled due to COVID in 2021, the inaugural Challenge Moscow was scheduled to take place June 26, 2022. The statement from Challenge closed with: “We look forward to a time when hostilities cease and peace returns for everyone.” The Challenge Moscow Facebook page has also posted strong messages against the war.

One people, one history, one pain. We are together with Ukraine. We are against war. We will do everything that the…

Posted by ChallengeMoscow on Thursday, February 24, 2022

Ironman followed, on Wednesday morning, with a statement announcing the cancellation of Ironman’s St. Petersburg 70.3 scheduled for July 17, 2022—and noted that impacted athletes will be notified of additional steps.

Ironman also announced that no Russian or Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete at the upcoming Ironman world championship events in St. George and Kona or in the 70.3 world championship in St. George. No professional athletes from those countries will be allowed to compete in any Ironman races and no age-group athletes will be allowed to compete under those flags. (In most private races, unlike World Triathlon events, age-group athletes self-declare nationality upon registration.)

“While we recognize the difficult situation created for Russian and Belarusian athletes by these steps, we believe these are necessary to protect the integrity of our events,” said the statement.

In 2020, the race in St. Petersburg was set to be the first-ever Ironman-brand event in Russia, but was canceled due to COVID. It went ahead in 2021 and Putin was, reportedly, on hand to greet the victors.

While there are other domestic races scheduled for both Russia and Ukraine, including one in Kyiv, those are the only major international triathlons currently planned. The funder and one of the co-founders of Super League Triathlon, Leonid Boguslavsky, is also one of the richest Russian businessmen in the world and was originally named in a 2018 declassified list of the top Russian oligarchs, though he moved to Canada after university. He was later removed from that list and is not under investigation, nor are any of his businesses under sanctions. There are not currently any SLT events planned for Russia and SLT also released a statement against the war. “Seeing what happened in Ukraine I can not remain silent. I feel deeply about this catastrophic and unjustified war,” wrote Boguslavsky.