The OCA Athletes' Committee has welcomed controversial IOC recommendations lifting a ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions ©Getty Images

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Athletes' Committee has welcomed the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) updated recommendations on Russia and Belarus provided there is "fairness to Asian athletes in any qualification pathway".

Having recommended their exclusion from international sport for more than one year following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the IOC Executive Board as expected paved the way for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals provided they do not support the invasion of Ukraine or are affiliated to the military.

The OCA's proposal for athletes from both countries to compete at its events including the delayed 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou was first revealed in December last year, and received backing at the Athletes' Forum in Bangkok earlier this month.

The IOC's plans have proved controversial, however, sparking an outcry in Ukraine and threats of a boycott.

IOC President Thomas Bach today took aim at Western European Governments who been vocal their opposition to a return for Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sport, describing their criticism as "deplorable".

Critics have argued there is no place for athletes from either country in sport while the war in Ukraine is continuing.

Mikako Kotani of Japan chairs the OCA Athletes' Committee, which has backed the IOC's stance on Russia and Belarus ©OCA
Mikako Kotani of Japan chairs the OCA Athletes' Committee, which has backed the IOC's stance on Russia and Belarus ©OCA

The OCA Athletes' Committee, chaired by Japan's double Olympic synchronised swimming bronze medallist Mikako Kotani, has claimed it "welcomes the statement" from the IOC, and believes the "recommended conditions reflect the feeling of athlete representatives in Asia".

It added it "would like to again emphasise and be consulted to ensure fairness to Asian athletes in any qualification pathway, including the Asian Games".

The OCA Athletes' Forum was attended by 88 participants from 43 countries, and the OCA said following behind closed doors discussions they agreed "athletes should not be punished for the actions of their Governments" and should be able to compete internationally "without any form of discrimination".

They deemed this should be under "clear conditions" including no national flags or anthems, no Russian or Belarusian Government officials in attendance at events and in compliance with anti-doping regulations.

The IOC has stressed that it has not taken a final decision on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at next year's Olympic Games in Paris.