In December 2023, the North Atlantic Fella Organization (NAFO), a volunteer global online community that supports Ukraine and combats Russian propaganda, launched an information campaign to stop Russian participation in the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, set to take place in July and August in Paris.
Dubbed the “Bloody Olympics” and using the same hashtag, the NAFO campaign has reached millions online, with members and non-members posting and sharing memes and cartoons advocating banning Russia from the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee, or IOC, rejected a blanket ban, allowing instead those Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not openly express support for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to compete as neutrals. Announcing the decision on December 14, 2023, the IOC said no Russian athlete tied to Russia’s army or intelligence services would be allowed to participate in the 2024 Paris games.
That same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he is against Russian athletes competing without the Russian flag. Russia has yet to respond to the IOC.
The NAFO campaign criticized the IOC’s decision, rejecting the idea of Russian athletes participating as “neutrals” amid the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine.
On December 22, NAFO member “Beefeater” wrote in a post on X that the campaign was in “full swing” and included a photo collage of 12 Russian Olympic athletes wearing military uniforms. The collage has since gone viral, shared by thousands on X and other social media platforms.
"The Russian Olympic Committee is sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Defense, and almost half of the Russian medals at the last Olympics in Tokyo were won by privates, sergeants, ensigns and officers from the Russian army, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Russian National Guard,” Beefeater wrote.
That is true.
At the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the Russian team competed under the "neutral" umbrella. Yet athletes with military ranks comprised up to 40% of the Russian team. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said army athletes won 45 of the country's 71 medals. The official National Guard website claimed another 16. That means military athletes won a total of 86% of Russia's medals.
The collage of 12 Russian athletes in military attire seems to have originated from bloodyolympics.com, a Ukrainian website created in December 2023 by the Information Forces of Ukraine, a self-described group of Ukrainian IT and media companies, public figures and marketing specialists.
The discovery that athletes in uniform won almost half of Russia’s medals at the Tokyo Olympics most likely originated from an article published by Meduza, a Latvia-based Russian independent news site. On August 3, 2021, five days before the end of the Tokyo games, Meduza reported that “almost half of the Russian medals at the Tokyo Olympics were won by privates, sergeants, warrant officers and officers - from the army, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Russian National Guard.”
However, the final data for the Tokyo Olympics showed that the contribution of Russian athletes in uniform was even more significant. Bombardir.ru, a Russian sports website, reported last July:
“CSKA [Russia’s Central Sports Club of the Army] athletes made up a third of the Russian national team and won 45 medals out of 71 — that’s 64% of the total. ... Another 16 medals (6+5+5) were received by athletes of the Russian National Guard."
Thus, military athletes received 86% of the medals — 61 out of 71 — that Russia won at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Out of the 335 Russian athletes who went to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics, 109 were serving in the Russian Army and 26 in the Russian National Guard. A total of 135 athletes with various military ranks – 40% of Russia’s Olympics roster – participated in those games.
According to Postnews, a Moscow-based news site, 78 of the 212 Russian athletes who participated in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing — more than a third — had contracts with the Russian army (61) and the National Guard (17).
“Athletes won awards and glorified their departments, for which they received new titles. Moreover, their service consists not only of competition. Athletes also go through training camps, drive equipment and go to shooting ranges,” the PostNews wrote in September 2022.
Like the NAFO activists, Ukrainian sports authorities and athletes are demanding that the IOC ban Russian athletes regardless of their declared affiliation.
In an appeal addressed to French President Emmanel Macron, the French minister of sports, the mayor of Paris and the head of the French National Olympic Committee, they called for a complete ban of Russian athletes from competitions.
“The [Russian] athletes permitted to participate in the Olympics are not ‘neutral’, but are open supporters of the war, which is confirmed by information published on the Internet,” the Ukrainian sports authorities and athletes wrote.
Polygraph info also verified that all 12 Russian Olympians whose photographs are on the viral photo collage have military ranks. The 12 are listed below:
Daniil Serokhvostov, biathlete and a participant in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, is a junior sergeant in the army. He has been training for the Olympics at CSKA.
Two-time Olympic champion in diving Dmitry Sautin has the military rank of lieutenant colonel and is also a member of CSKA.
Two-time Olympic figure skating champion and CSKA team member Evgeni Plushenko holds the rank of senior lieutenant in the Russian army.
CSKA athlete and Russian army corporal Evgenia Burtasova took part in the biathlon competitions at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Upon his promotion, Latypov thanked Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu:
“Our military spirit helps us cope with these difficulties and achieve victories. Thank you for your attention to sports and physical training in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. I'm proud to be part of the army family."
Two-time Olympic biathlon racing bronze medalist Alexander Loginov is a member of the CSKA team and has the rank of lieutenant in the Russian army.
Olympic high jump champion Maria Lasitskene holds the rank of captain in the army and is a member of the CSKA team. The Russian Defense Ministry awarded Lasitskene with the Medal for Military Valor and the Certificate of Honor.
Gymnast Nikita Nagorny, who was part of Russia’s gold-medal winning gymnastics team at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, is a member of the sports team of the Russian National Guard, the country’s internal security force, and holds the rank of praporshchik (sergeant major).
In 2016, the IOC's investigative body, the World Anti-doping Agency, or WADA, accused Russia of state-sponsored doping, and a three years later the Russian team was banned from major sports events.
Polygraph.info debunked Russian sports and state officials' systematic false denials of doping.