IOC headquarters in Lausanne. GETTY IMAGES

Russia on Wednesday accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of "racism and neo-Nazism" over its neutrality rules for Russian Olympians and possible sanctions for athletes taking part in the Kremlin-organised Friendship Games.

The IOC announced on Tuesday that Russian and Belarusian athletes, who must compete under a neutral flag at Paris 2024, would not be allowed to parade during the opening ceremony on 26 July in the French capital, a new restriction imposed as a result of Russia's offensive in Ukraine more than two years ago. 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: "The IOC's decisions are illegal, unfair and unacceptable. We are appalled by the unprecedented discriminatory conditions imposed by the IOC on Russian athletes. These statements show how far the IOC has strayed from its stated principles and has turned to racism and neo-Nazism," she stressed at a press conference. 

The Russian government also accused the IOC of trying to intimidate athletes who want to take part in the Friendship Games. James Macleod, the IOC's director of Olympic solidarity, refused to rule out sanctions.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

"It's intimidation of athletes and it completely undermines the authority of the IOC," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, warning the Olympic body against any sanctions against athletes taking part in this competition. "It is the destruction of the ideal of Olympism," he added. 

Moscow's response comes a day after the IOC toughened its stance against the Russian initiative to host a sporting event, including a winter edition, in direct competition with the Olympic Games, which the body said was being organised "for purely political motives".

The IOC also criticised the "cynical attempt" to use athletes "for political propaganda purposes". At the moment, Russia is not planning to boycott the Paris Games, although it has not yet taken a final decision. Finally, the IOC on Tuesday recalled Russia's "total disregard for global anti-doping rules" in the past, referring to the institutionalised doping scandal that culminated in 2014.