Judo Blog: Russia, Putin, and Judo Updates

Putin Judo
( Image: Getty Images)

Article submitted to me by - Cheryl Harai

"As I was driving to a judo tournament in Las Vegas this weekend, I got an alert that people in our judo community were calling for the IJF to remove Valdemar Putin’s judo rank. While I didn’t think it was a bad idea, I did think “ So What?” In the seriousness of his actions in Ukraine and the sanctions that were just starting to be imposed, removing Putin’s judo rank seemed very inconsequential and why would we think he would even care. A day later after conferring with my colleagues and good friend Gary Goltz, I’ve changed my mind. As a country, I believe we need to do what ever it takes to separate him from our sport. I also believe that while this war is ongoing, we must follow the rest of the world sports and suspend all Russian and Belarus athletes from all international events.

While he has had a long history with the sport, Putin has often used his participation in judo as a tool of propaganda to support his macho, tough guy image. Almost every profile of Putin includes statements that he is a good, strong, athlete, and an expert with incredible judo skills. He is described as a ‘keen judoka’ and much is made of him attending 2012 London Olympic Games to watch judo. He received his first-degree black belt when he was 19, and currently holds an 8th degree. Putin describes judo as “not just a sport, It’s his life philosophy”. World Taekwondo followed the IJF and awarded him an Honorary 9th dan black belt in 2013 even though he’s not done TKD as far as I know.

Link to - IJF 2-27-22 Official Announcement

When Putin directed Russia’s military to invade Ukraine last week, he acted directly against the moral standards of our international judo community. Yesterday, Judoka in Switzerland issued the following statement and petition.

“We the international judo community emphatically reject the violence Mr. Putin

has espoused and no longer consider him to be one of our own. He misrepresents the sport in a dangerous way, damaging its reputation and global standing. We call for the International Judo Federation and Kodokan to immediately strip him of his judo grade and the Honorary Presidency of the IJF - acknowledging that he has broken judo’s Moral Codeand is unfit to hold the senior rank that he does.

Link to - WTKD 2-28-22 Official Announcement

The World Taekwondo Federation also acted quickly to distance themselves and condemn his actions,

revoking Putin’s honorary rank and issuing this statement.

"World Taekwondo strongly condemns the brutal attacks on innocent lives in Ukraine, which go against the World Taekwondo vision of 'Peace is More Precious than Triumph' and the World Taekwondo values of respect and tolerance. World Taekwondo's thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and we hope for a peaceful and immediate end to this war," Sunday February 27, 2022, the International Judo Federation (IJF) suspended Mr. Vladimir Putin’s status as the Honorary President and Ambassador of the International Judo Federation with this announcement.

Official Announcement of the International Judo Federation

In light of the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine, the International Judo Federation announces the suspension of Mr. Vladimir Putin’s status as Honorary President and Ambassador of the International Judo Federation.”

The IJF has not yet indicated if this ‘suspension’ is permanent or addressed Putin’s rank and his relationship with the international judo community.

Just two days before this announcement, the IJF President, Marius L Vizer issued a statement titled, ‘Judo for Peace.’

"We, the sports community, must remain united and strong, to support each other and our universal values, in order to always promote peace and friendship, harmony and unity,"

"The judo family hopes that the current unrest can be solved in the last moment, to re-establish normality and stability in Eastern Europe and the world, to once again be able to focus on the diverse cultures, history and legacy of Europe, in the most positive way."

Late Sunday, after the announcements of the EUFA and FIFA sports sanctions, the President of the European Judo Union, abruptly resigned from his post. Russia’s Sergey Soloveychik stated, "No one doubts that my heart belongs to judo, but it is equally true that it belongs to my homeland, Russia. We, judoka, must always be loyal to our principles."

A longtime friend and Russian oligarch, Arkady Rotenberg, remains on the IJF executive committee as a ‘development manager.”

As we see other international sports ban Russian competitors, our judo values of fair play, may find it difficult to hold all a countries athlete accountable for their leader’s actions. Yet we need to. it is a necessary step in in maintaining our judo moral code and values. The IJF suspends and ban judoka for much lesser crimes.

Call for support – Because things are moving fast, we can hope that removing Putin’s rank (IJF & Kodokan), and standing in the international judo community has already been announced by the time this is published. Regardless, Let the IJF know that the Judoka in the United States supports removing Putin from judo completely, for life. Let’s separate our sport from this association. As for the Russian and Belarus judoka, suspension from positions of international power and a ban on Russian athlete participation in competitions is in alignment with the rest of the international sports foundations. Let’s give it some time. We need to see what happens with this war and what their response is once the fighting is done. Not only will the Russian Judo Federation need to re-establish trust that they follow Kano’s philosophy and the moral teachings of judo, but they will also need to distance themselves from the stigma of Putin’s actions and destroy his identification as a great Russian Judoka.

Link to - Stay safe, take care of yourself


Russia and Ukraine

I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to gary@garygoltz.com, thanks.

Gary Goltz

Gary Goltz

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