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Russian Athletes' Involvement in the Syrian National Team for the Pan Arab Games

Wesam Abo Marq Wesam Abo Marq
14th July 2023
Russian Athletes' Involvement in the Syrian National Team for the Pan Arab Games
The Russian athletes were reported to have changed their names (Twitter)

A highly publicized scandal engulfed a major tournament among elite athletes from the Arab world. According to reports, five Russian athletes were listed as Syrian participants in the Pan Arab Games after changing their names and birthdates. A prominent Ukrainian official alleges that these Russian athletes are actively evading sanctions by representing Syria and taking part in the Pan Arab Games held in Algeria.

Russian Athletes Seek to Compete for Syrian National Team

Journalist Sergei Lisin uncovered the presence of Russian athletes in the Syrian team at the Pan Arab Games and shared this information on his Telegram channel. 

According to The New Voice of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, stated on Thursday that Russian athletes are attempting to bypass sanctions by utilizing third countries to take part in international competitions.

"Russian athletes are trying to circumvent sanctions by using third countries to participate in international competitions," he stated.

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Photo Description: A screenshot of Forbes’s article.

According to reports, Daria Dzhedzhula, a badminton player, has been listed as Dasha Dhedhula with a changed date of birth, making her appear four years younger. The report also mentions the inclusion of cyclists Tatyana Malkova (listed as Tatia Malko) and Daria Malkova (Darie Malko), both with altered birthdates. Furthermore, track and field athlete Karina Poludkina, listed as Karina Polud, and swimmer Anastasia Sorokina, known as Enas Sorkine, are part of the group.

Russian Federations Speak Out on Controversial Story

According to Federation President Vyacheslav Ekimov, the Russian Cycling Federation claimed that they were unaware of the invitation extended to the Malkova sisters to participate in the Pan Arab Games. Ekimov stated that the invitation was sent privately and the federation did not receive it. Furthermore, there were no notifications indicating the athletes' intention to change their citizenship. Based on the currently available information, it is expected that the Malkova sisters will return to Russia in the near future.

Vladimir Salnikov, the president of the All-Russian Swimming Federation, also said that the invitation was private, stating, "In the invitation process on a private basis, not through the federation, people were involved who have neither the competence nor the responsibility to resolve these issues."

The National Badminton Federation of Russia was allegedly also unaware of Daria Dzhedzhula's participation in the Pan Arab Games. They stated, "The date of birth and the international spelling of the athlete’s last name on the Games website have been changed compared to the real ones. The NFBI did not receive any statements from her. The leadership of the national team was also not notified."

The All-Russian Athletics Federation (VFLA) provided specific details about the recent events. Ruslan Mashchenko, the head coach of the Russian national team, informed TASS that "Karina Poludkina was not among the participants in the javelin throwing competitions that took place as part of the Pan Arab Games in Algeria." Mashchenko explained that just a few days ago, Poludkina participated in the junior championship in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and therefore, she did not have the opportunity to travel to Algeria.

All the athletes who spoke to journalists confirmed the existence of an offer from Syria, although each one described the proposal differently.

The Russian Athletes Share Different Comments on the Controversial Story

All the athletes who spoke to journalists confirmed the existence of an offer from Syria, although each one described the proposal differently.

Daria Malkova stated that she received a private offer with favorable conditions, including coverage of travel expenses and accommodation, allowing her to train on the highway. She clarified that she was not planning to participate in the Pan Arab Games or travel to Algiers. Instead, she intended to return to Russia for the upcoming Russian championship on the track.

Tatyana Malkova, Daria's sister, mentioned on Match TV that she was unaware of how their names appeared on the Games website. However, she confirmed that she had indeed gone to Syria for training purposes. Tatyana stated that the proposal came from Vsevolod Konstantinovich, a friend of their father. Their father, Vasily Malkov, claimed that their original plans did not involve participating in the Games.

Swimmer Anastasia Sorokina revealed that her participation in the competition was initially planned as a commercial start, with assurances from the organizers that there would be no issues. However, when the situation changed, the decision was made to withdraw from the competition.

Meanwhile, Sorokina is the only Russian athlete among those listed on the Games website whose name appeared in the start list for the event in Algiers. On July 5, she was expected to compete in the 400 m swim, but her name had a dash next to it in the final protocol. Additionally, on July 7, she once again appeared on the starting list for the 100 m breaststroke and two mixed relays.

The other athletes have not provided details about their applications to the Syrian National Team.

The Syrian Sports Federation Responds to the Controversial Story

Despite the athletes' claims that they had no intention of changing their sports citizenship, Firas Mualla, the head of the Syrian Sports Federation, informed RIA Novosti that three Russian athletes participating in swimming, badminton, and cycling had applied for naturalization with international sports federations in order to compete for Syrian teams. However, their applications were rejected. 

Currently, despite the names listed on the Games website, there are no Russian athletes included in the Syrian team's application for the Pan Arab Games in Algeria.

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Photo Description: A screenshot of RIA Novosti’s article.

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