Cross-country skiing star Alexander Bolshunov has said Russian athletes "long" to be competing on the world stage ©Getty Images

Three-time Olympic cross-country skiing champion Alexander Bolshunov has claimed "all sports would only benefit" from the return of Russian athletes as they remain largely frozen out from the international sporting arena.

Bolshunov told Russia’s official state news agency TASS that athletes from his country “long” to be competing in global events that they have been barred from in response to the war in Ukraine.

"Today, as never before, we need to be a part of organised sports tournament in Russia and abroad with the participation of athletes from other countries," said Bolshunov.

"We long to be competing against the strongest and if it does happen all sports would only benefit from it."

Bolshunov won golds in the 30 kilometres skiathlon, 50km freestyle and 4x10km relay events at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, where he also picked up 15km classical silver and team sprint bronze.

The 25-year-old was one of several Russian Olympic medallists to attend a pro-war rally at the Luzhniki Stadium in March.

The event saw Russian President Vladimir Putin praise the country’s "special operation" in Ukraine and celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Russia annexing the formerly-Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

Bolshunov's comments come after International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said he remained steadfast on his position against Russia and Belarus.

IOC President Thomas Bach is refusing to change his stance on Russian and Belarusian athletes as the war in Ukraine continues ©Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach is refusing to change his stance on Russian and Belarusian athletes as the war in Ukraine continues ©Getty Images

Speaking to German publication Sport Blid, Bach insisted it was "not the time to change recommendations" on excluding Russian and Belarusian athletes from international sport events due to the invasion of Ukraine.

The vast majority of the Olympic International Federations have adhered to the IOC’s recommendations announced on February 28 to ban athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing in global events and move any planned competitions away from the two countries.

Selected sports, including judo and tennis, have permitted athletes from both nations to compete as neutrals.

Russian figure skating coach Tatyana Tarasova recently accused Bach of setting "the whole world" against her country.

Neither the Russian Olympic Committee nor National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus have been suspended by the IOC, and no action has been taken against Russian IOC members.

Elected officials of both countries have also largely retained their positions, including participating in Congresses of FIFA, the International Skating Union and International Boxing Association.

Bans on Russia and Belarus have been drawn increasingly into focus with some sports having already begun qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.

Russia, aided by Belarus, launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 - just four days after the conclusion of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.