Badminton’s governing body paved the way Wednesday for Russian and Belarusian players to return to competition as neutrals after they were banned over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. It comes with the Paris Olympics just over a year away and sports federations grappling with what to do about athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus.

Badminton World Federation (BWF) barred Russian and Belarusian players in March last year and in April extended the ban as Moscow’s assault on Ukraine stretched into a second year. But on Wednesday the BWF said it had commissioned “a regulative and operational framework to allow athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports to compete as individual neutral athletes”. “BWF council will then deliberate on the merits of the principles, framework and timeline to potentially lift the suspension of Russian and Belarussian athletes,” the Kuala Lumpur-based BWF said in a statement. The council will meet in August in Copenhagen.

Athletes from both countries have faced differing sanctions from a multitude of sports since Russia invaded Ukraine. In March the IOC recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes return to international competition, without commenting on their possible presence at the Paris Games. Many sports, including badminton, have begun their qualifying campaigns for the 2024 Games.

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