Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit out at the IOC for banning his country from competing under its own flag at Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

Vladimir Putin has claimed the Olympic Movement is "degrading" after bans were imposed on Russian athletes in retaliation against his invasion of Ukraine, leaving their participation at Paris 2024 in doubt. 

The Russian President accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Federations of wrongly politicising sport ahead of final decisions being taken on his country’s participation at next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in the French capital.

"After all, the point is not only about setting records, but about uniting people," Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

French President Emmanuel Macron has backed the presence of Russian athletes competing at Paris 2024 but only under a neutral flag following Putin's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

"As for the Olympic Movement itself, I would say this: I think that today’s leadership of International Federations, the International Olympic Committee itself, they distort the original idea of Pierre de Coubertin - sport should be outside of politics," Putin told the Forum.

“It should not divide, but unite people.

“What has happened over the last decade? 

"The Olympic Movement has fallen into the trap of financial interests. 

"There has been an unacceptable commercialisation of international sport or the international Olympic Movement."

Vladimir Putin told the Far Eastern Forum in Vladivostok that the Olympics is
Vladimir Putin told the Far Eastern Forum in Vladivostok that the Olympics is "about uniting people" ©Getty Images

The IOC has stressed the Russian and Belarus flags, anthems and symbols should remain banned, and claims a decision has not been taken on both countries' inclusion at Paris 2024.

Russia and Belarus, along with Guatemala which is the only National Olympic Committee suspended by the IOC, were not among the 203 nations invited to Paris 2024 in July one year before the Olympics are due to start.

While the majority of International Federations have adhered to the IOC's updated recommendations, some, including athletics and equestrian, have maintained their initial stances.

Russian and Belarusian athletes have also faced some difficulty competing at qualifying competitions for Paris 2024, including a ban from this year's European Games in Kraków-Małopolska and their participation at the delayed Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games proving unfeasible.

But, despite his anger at the IOC, Putin has appeared to back Russian athletes competing under a neutral flag at Paris 2024 if that is the only way they can compete.

Due to sanctions imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency following revelations of its state-sponsored drugs programme, a full Russian team has not competed under its own flag at the Olympics since Sochi 2014.

“Of course, we must first of all be guided by the interests of the athletes in this situation," Putin told the Forum. 

"And each of them, who for years, some decades, have been preparing for the most important competitions, must make certain decisions for themselves."

A full Russian team has not competed under the country's flag at the Olympics since Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images
A full Russian team has not competed under the country's flag at the Olympics since Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images

Earlier, Russia's Ministry of Sport had revealed that since the start of Putin's invasion of Ukraine, 55 athletes in Olympic sports had changed citizenship so they could continue to compete internationally.

“I don’t blame anyone," Putin said. 

"But just for an athlete, especially a high-class one, when he stands on the podium, the anthem of his country sounds and the flag, the banner is raised, this also has a certain meaning. 

"But in the end, each person makes his own choice."

Officials in Ukraine, meanwhile, have slammed the IOC for allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to international sport as neutrals and threatened a boycott if they are present at Paris 2024, arguing there should be no place for either country under any banner while the war remains ongoing.