Russian judokas are going to the European Championship in a “neutral” status. Some of them are active military who support the war and Putin personally. Investigation by Babel

Oleksandr Miasyshchev
Yuliana Skibitska, Kateryna Kobernyk

Russians are actively returning to elite sport. In February 2022, following a full-scale invasion, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred from international competition. Within a year, the IOC changed its decision and allowed the Russians to compete in a "neutral" status — without a flag, anthem and national symbols. Exceptions were active servicemen of the Russian army and athletes who supported the Russian invasion in Ukraine. The IOC still recommends that they should not be allowed to compete at all. The International Judo Federation (IJF) took advantage of the first weakening of the rules. Its honorable president before the full-scale invasion was Putin. In May 2023, with the permission of the federation, 17 Russian judokas went to the World Championship in Qatar. Most of them served in the army. Because of this, Ukraine boycotted the competition. Now the Russians are going to the European Judo Championship in France in a "neutral" status. As Babel learned from its own sources, Russia has asked about the participation of 40 judokas. Babel correspondent Oleksandr Myasishchev researched their biographies and social networks (which they carefully cleaned) and found out that at least 15 athletes are active military personnel of the Russian army. Whatʼs more, at least seven of them went to the occupied Crimea, took part in propaganda activities of the Russian government, spread the Z-symbol and love Putin a lot. This is the first text in a series of articles about Russian sports, which have never been outside of politics.

The military in sports is a common international practice. For example, there were 29 military athletes from Ukraine at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Among them were wrestler Zhan Beleniuk, athlete Yaroslava Mahuchikh and cyclist Olena Starikova. In the same year, servicemen represented the USA, Australia, China, Romania, Switzerland and Italy.

Everything is more complicated in the case of Russia. Since the IOC still recommends not allowing active Russian military personnel and those who support the war in Ukraine to compete, the Russians hide information about their athletes. The members of the national judo team carefully cleaned (or completely deleted) their accounts in social networks. They were forbidden to comment on the subject of the war — military judoka Daria Kurbonmamadova (Mezhetskaya) revealed this in one of the interviews.

However, we have established that out of 40 Russian judokas who are to go to the European Championship in France, 18 belong to two large organizations connected to the power structures of Russia — CSKA (13 persons) and "Dynamo" (5). Both of them publicly support the war, the Russian army, they organised events in Russian-occupied Ukrainian cities. For example, in May 2023, CSKAʼs sambo sports platoon coach Lt. Fyodor Durimanov held master classes and "courage lessons" for 1 000 children in the occupied Donetsk region. "Dynamo" repeatedly held competitions in memory of the Russians killed in the war and in support of the invasion.

Here are brief stories about seven Russian judokas. The political position of none of them can be called neutral. They actively support Putin, the war, and organized events in occupied cities.

Mansur Lorsanov

Lorsanov is 23 years old. He is a student of the Chechen sports club "Edelweiss" named after Turpal-Ali Kadyrov. Now he represents the "Akhmat" club, which was founded and is managed by Putinʼs ally Ramzan Kadyrov. Since the fall of 2022, he has been under US sanctions for his involvement in torture, murder, and recruiting volunteers for the war with Ukraine. "Akhmat" is not Lorsanovʼs only connection with Kadyrovites. In his social networks there is a photo with Kadyrovʼs cousin Amrudi Edilgiriev, who heads the Judo Federation in Chechnya.

In October 2022, Lorsanov competed at the Russian Championship, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Putin, and won. For this, Ramzan Kadyrov awarded him a prize of 5 million rubles. Kadyrov had previously personally congratulated Lorsanov on his victory at the Russian competition. A "neutral" judoka also visited the occupied Crimea in 2020. According to the Ukrainian Judo Federation, he serves in the Russian Guard as a representative of "Dynamo".

Tamerlan Bashaev

Bashaev is 27 years old, he has already won many Russian and international titles. And he is an ensign of the Russian army and a representative of CSKA. Like Lorsanov, Bashaev trained in Kadyrovʼs sports club "Akhmat", took part in the championship on the occasion of Putinʼs birthday and received an award from Kadyrov. CSKAʼs website has a photo of Bashaev with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Judoka Bashaev and Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Sergei Shoigu.

ЦСКА / «Бабель»

Inal Tasoyev

Tasoyev is 25 years old, he is a famous sportsman from Vladikavkaz, represents CSKA. He has the rank of ensign and even received the medal "For strengthening the military community". In October 2022, he participated in the championship on the occasion of Putinʼs birthday in Grozny. In September 2023, he spoke at a sports event of Putinʼs "United Russia" party.

One of Tasoyevʼs acquaintances is the Russian soldier Kachmazov. On Instagram, Tasoyev liked his photo from the warzone, as the UkrSportBase initiative found out.

Inal Tasoyev during the presentation of an award at the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

ЦСКА / «Бабель»

Madina Taimazova

Taimazova is 24 years old, she is the bronze champion of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Represents the CSKA team in the rank of ensign. In 2020, Putin awarded her with the medal "For services to the Motherland" of the 2nd degree. Already the following year, the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Shoigu presented her with the "Soldier of the Year — 2021" award.

In April 2022, the "neutral" athlete Taimazova held a master class for children from the occupied territories of the Donetsk region, who were taken to St. Petersburg on February 26. At this training, the children were in sports uniforms with the inscription "DNR". In October, Taimazova took part in the judo championship dedicated to the 70th birthday of Putin. At the same time, the local judo club "Turbostroitel" published a photo of Taimazova on the background of a poster with Putin and young judokas. On the poster was the inscription "Za Putina! Za pobyedu! Za narod!" ["For Putin! For the victory! For the people!"]. This photo was later deleted, but the screenshot was saved by the "UkrSportBase" initiative.

Madina Taimazova at the judo championship dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Putin.
Judoka Taimazova and Shoigu at the presentation of the "Soldier of the Year — 2021" award.

Madina Taimazova at the judo championship dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Putin. Judoka Taimazova and Shoigu at the presentation of the "Soldier of the Year — 2021" award.

UkrSportBase / YouTube / «Бабель»; ЦСКА / «Бабель»

Arman Adamyan

Adamyan is 26 years old, he is the champion of Europe and the world champion of 2023, a member of "Dynamo". Like some of his colleagues, he performed at the championship on the occasion of Putinʼs birthday. On the eve of the full-scale invasion, Adamyan visited the Russian-occupied Alushta in Crimea and trained there. Putin himself congratulated the "neutral" athlete on his victory at the World Championship in May 2023. According to him, Adamyan "wrote a bright page in the victorious memorial of the national judo school."

Mikhail Igolnikov

Igolnikov is 26 years old, he is one of the most titled judokas of Russia. He is a lieutenant in the Russian army and has been serving for at least eight years. Igolnikov represents CSKA, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

In 2019, CSKA published a photo of Igolnikov and Putin training together. In 2022, Igolnikov posted a photo in camouflage with no identifying marks.

Mikhail Igolnikov and Putin at a training session in Sochi.
Mikhail Igolnikov (right) and another Russian judoka Niyaz Ilyasov (left).
Igolnikov in camouflage uniform in Tuapse (Russia).

Mikhail Igolnikov and Putin at a training session in Sochi. Mikhail Igolnikov (right) and another Russian judoka Niyaz Ilyasov (left). Igolnikov in camouflage uniform in Tuapse (Russia).

VK / «Бабель»; «Babel'»; Instagram / «Бабель»

Kamila Badurova

Badurova is 28 years old, she is a famous judoka, and now an ensign of the Armed Forces of Russia, also plays for CSKA. In 2021, for military service and sports results, she received the medal of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation "For military prowess" of the 2nd degree.

Badurova receives the medal from the Ministry of Defense.

ЦСКА / «Бабель»

11 more judokas of the Russian national team who are related to military structures:

  • Abrek Naguchev (army judoka from CSKA. Played for the Russian Armed Forces national team. In 2017, he went to compete in occupied Crimea);
  • Sabina Gilyazova (army judoka from CSKA);
  • Aleksandra Babintseva (senior lieutenant of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, representative of CSKA);
  • Irina Dolgova (lieutenant of the Russian army, awarded the medal "For strengthening the military commonwealth");
  • Daria Kurbonmamadova (army judoka from CSKA);
  • Murad Chopanov (member of CSKA sports team);
  • Daniil Lavrentiev (private of CSKA sports company);
  • Hasan Khalmurzaev (represents the "Dynamo" club);
  • Niyaz Bilalov (represents "Dynamo");
  • Valery Yendovitsky ("Dynamo");
  • Alisa Startseva (an army athlete from CSKA. On February 24, 2022, she posted a photo from Crimea).

The coaches of the Russian team also support the war. The senior coach of the menʼs national team Arsen Galstyan visited the occupied Crimea several times. On Instagram, he liked Putinʼs speech on May 9, 2022, in which he glorified the dead occupiers and talked about "neo-Nazis." Galstyan also liked the "Georgian ribbon" campaign in support of the Russian army. Another national team coach Batraz Kaitmazov also visited occupied Crimea in 2017.

Can the IOC ban Russian athletes from competing because of their by no means neutral position?

There is no directly prescribed rule that would prohibit the admission of military occupation armies to international sports competitions, as candidate of legal sciences and partner of LCF Law Group Maksym Sheverdin tells Babel. However, depending on the situation, such restrictions may be set by the IOC or federations of specific sports. For example, now the IOC recommends not allowing active Russian military and athletes who support the war to participate in international competitions. However, the International Judo Federation, whose honorable chairman before the full-scale invasion was Putin, ignores these recommendations.

The IOC has another option — not just recommend, but outright ban the participation. There have already been such precedents: in 1964, Olympians from South Africa were not allowed to compete due to apartheid. In 2000, the IOC did not allow the national team from Afghanistan to participate in the Olympics due to discrimination against women.

However, the chances that the IOC will not allow Russians to participate in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris at all are small. IOC President Thomas Bach insists that individual Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not support the war and are not connected to military and government structures should be allowed to compete as neutral athletes. And the president of the French judo federation Stephane Nomis insists that Russian judokas should also be allowed to participate in the Olympics. This, in his opinion, will bring peace negotiations with Russia closer.

The Russian national judo team in military uniform before departing for the competition in Paris in 2021.

ЦСКА / «Бабель»

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