“We all know cases where one country refused to compete against another because of their political disagreements. We saw in 1980s a generation of athletes lost their dreams and the chance to compete when countries started boycotting one another – is this where we want sports to be? Or are sports a way to bring people together even at the toughest times, and especially at the toughest time?
“My experience in the last few days has greatly informed my thinking, so today I’m announcing the creation of a foundation that will be devoted to helping athletes who for political reasons out of their control lost their ability to compete at the highest level. It will be funded by Uralkali using the money that had been intended for F1 sponsorship this season.
“The foundation will allocate resources both financial and non-financial resources to those athletes who have spent their lives preparing only to find they were forbidden from competing and collectively punished just because of the passport they held. We will work to find jobs, as many athletes have been counting on sponsorships following their performances that did not happen.
“We will also provide legal aid. We will help them psychologically to cope with the sense of loss and emptiness that comes from being excluded. We all know the career of an athletes is short and it requires years of sacrifice to compete. When that reward is taken away it is devastating, and no one is thinking what happens next. I will be addressing this.
“Athletes unable to train due to upheaval will also be included in this. This will include athletes from all conflict zones and our door is open to everybody we will beginning with the paralympic team in Russia which was banned from Beijing having first been told they could travel. The name of the foundation will be ‘We Compete As One’.”
At a time when companies and charities are diverting significant sums – Ferrari donated €1million this week – to help Ukranians in need, Mazepin is calling the effect of sanctions on athletes “devastating”, and refers to a “sense of loss”. At the risk of repeating myself, Ukrainians dying trying to defend their country from invasion is devastating, and there are real civilian losses in that war, not just a “sense” of it.