The Russian Fencing Federation is attempting to overturn the International Fencing Federation's decision to ban Russian fencers ©Getty Images

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) has reportedly refused to allow athletes from Russia to compete as neutrals when challenged in court by the Russian Fencing Federation (FFR).

According to Russia’s official state news agency TASS, preliminary hearings were held in Lausanne in Switzerland yesterday after the FFR took the FIE to the Swiss civil court over its decision to ban Russian fencers.

The FIE Executive Committee agreed on March 2 to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in its events "until further notice" in response to Russia’s invasion, backed by Belarus, of Ukraine.

The decision came after the International Olympic Committee's recommendation to International Federations, but the FFR is contesting the move in a bid to enable athletes to play under neutral status.

It has been reported by TASS that FFR President Ilgar Mammadov and FIE Interim President Emmanuel Katsiadakis represented their organisations in court.

"Preliminary hearings were held today, where one of the options for reaching a compromise was the FFR’s proposal to allow the Russians to start in a neutral status under the flag of the FIE," a source from the FFR told TASS.

Russia's name and flag were already banned from the World Championships under World Ani-Doping Agency sanctions imposed on the country, before the nation's athletes were banned outright.

Russian fencers are banned from competing at next month's World Fencing Championships in Cairo ©Getty Images
Russian fencers are banned from competing at next month's World Fencing Championships in Cairo ©Getty Images

"But the FIE, represented by Acting President Emmanuel Katsiadakis, defended the decision of its Executive Committee to dismiss."

The FFR’s attempts come with the World Fencing Championships scheduled to be held in little more than a month.

Egyptian capital Cairo is due to hold the FIE’s flagship event from July 15 to 23.

TASS reports that the court has given the FIE and FFR three months to resolve the situation, but the latter is aiming to quicken the process with the World Fencing Championships on the horizon.

"If the answer is no, the FIE will have to give a justification with which the FFR can proceed to the next stage and sue so that the athletes can still compete," the FFR source told TASS.

"But three months is a long time, so the FFR lawyers will look for ways to speed up this process. 

"The World Championships start in Cairo on July 15."

Katsiadakis is leading the FIE after Uzbek-born Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov agreed to step aside as President following the European Union’s decision to impose economic sanctions on him over Russia’s military assault on Ukraine.

When the World Fencing Championships last took place in Budapest in 2019, Russia won seven medals - more than any other country - including three gold.