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No more excuses – Russia must be exiled from sport

No more excuses – Russia must be exiled from sport

Not that it is impossible for the game to act courageously against the cruelty of tyranny. Schalke, for example, have taken the extraordinary step of removing Gazprom’s logo from their shirts. While this could easily be passed off as a PR stunt, it is also a decision fraught with peril for a club who found themselves relegated from the Bundesliga’s top flight last season.

Schalke’s lead is one that sport must heed. For the avoidance of doubt, this should mean a wholesale ban on Russian athletes at next month’s Paralympics, just as happened in Rio six years ago in retaliation for the nation’s state-sponsored doping racket. It should equate to an automatic bye in the World Cup play-offs for Poland, who, under direct threat from Putin’s incursions into Eastern Europe, will rightly resist any notion of playing Russia in Moscow. It should signal the scrapping of SportAccord, the world’s largest sports industry meet-and-greet, in Ekaterinburg in May. Any and every major international sports event scheduled in Russia this year, from the grand prix in Sochi to the world short-course swimming championships in Kazan, remains unthinkable while Putin flagrantly violates the sovereignty of a neighbour.

Do not hold your breath about any of this. Formula One is so unbothered about where the money comes from that Haas, the worst team on the grid, have negotiated title sponsorship with Uralkali, one of Russia’s leading fertiliser producers. It is a sensitive subject: Guenther Steiner, the team principal, was abruptly pulled from Thursday’s press conference in Barcelona to avoid questions about these financial links. So enmeshed are Haas with Uralkali that they have even given a driver’s seat to Nikita Mazepin, a 20-year-old sufficiently crash-prone to be known these days as “Maze-spin”, for no better reason than he is the chairman Dmitry’s son.

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