In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the United States and several other countries (including, ironically, the then-new enemy of the US, the Ayatollah Khomieni-led Iran) boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics, which were held in Moscow.
Some hailed the boycott as a strong statement of principle. Others thought they unfairly penalized athletes, particularly those in sports for which the Games are the most prominent stage—and the end-point of athletes’ careers, especially in sports as diverse as gymnastics, wrestling and, yes, bicycle racing (at least for countries like the US that didn’t have professional racing circuits).
That last point makes an article in Velo News all the more interesting and relevant. “Where does the line end and begin between sports and politics?” Andrew Hood wonders.
Specifically, he relates that question to Putain’s, I mean Puto’s, I mean Putain’s, invasion of Ukraine. Very astutely, he points out that while the Union Cyclisme Internationale’s condemnation is laudable, it actually won’t do much to pressure the Russian sports establishment or government, let alone Putin himself.
While there are a number of world-class Russian cyclists—in particular, sprinters—there aren’t any major UCI-sanctioned road races—which, let’s face it, are the most-followed events in the sport—in Russia. Moreover, there aren’t any major bike brands with a sizable market outside the country.
In brief, a full-on boycott by the UCI or any other cycling body will do more to hurt individual Russian racers, just as the 1980 Olympic boycott penalized individual athletes—and, arguably, accomplished nothing beyond a retaliatory boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.