USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland’s Letter to the Team USA Community Regarding IPC Announcement
The following note was sent from USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland to the Team USA community after the International Paralympic Committee's decision regarding the RPC and NPC Belarus' participation at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Throughout the past several days, we’ve seen the global sporting community come together in solidarity to support the people of Ukraine. International Federations and National Olympic and Paralympic Committees from across the globe joined the International Olympic Committee in calling for a complete ban on international sport participation for Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials until peace has been restored.
Earlier this morning, we learned that the International Paralympic Committee decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. And while we can empathize with the difficulty of this decision and the IPC’s desire to protect the athletes’ rights to compete, we are disappointed in this outcome as it excuses Russia’s disregard for not only the Olympic truce, but also for the victims of a senseless war.
Although incredibly difficult, with the Opening Ceremony just days away, we must do our best to focus and commit to delivering the best Games experience possible for Team USA. We will remain diligent in our commitment to providing for our athletes holistically – mind and body – as we navigate the added complexities of these already unprecedented times.
To the athletes of Team USA preparing to compete, you have worked years for this moment, dedicating yourself to achieving your sporting dream on the great stage of the Paralympic Games. Despite the news and the potential for distraction, we want to reiterate our support for you and our pride in all you represent – as individuals, as community members, as athletes, and as a collective Team USA. We are here for you, and know you have a proud nation behind you as well.
As we move forward, we’d like to offer a few reminders:
Mental Health Resources
Please know that our mental health services team is here to support the Team USA community. Visit TeamUSA.org/mentalhealth for information on available resources – including a mental health provider registry and 24/7 support line for Team USA athletes. Click here to review this overview of services for more details.
Travel & Security
The U.S. Embassy in Russia continues to advise U.S. citizens not to travel to Russia and has urged U.S. citizens to consider departing the country while air travel options, albeit limited, are still available. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Belarus has suspended operations and is urging U.S. citizens in Belarus to depart immediately. When planning your travel, visit the State Department Travel Page for the latest travel advisories.
Team & Athlete Expression
We understand these events have captured hearts and minds across the world with many showing support for the innocent athletes and people of Ukraine – and that support is taking many forms.
To those of you in Beijing, as with every Games, it is important to remember that the IPC rules govern all Games participants, including U.S. delegation members, and that as guests of the host country, we are subject to its laws, which sometimes differ from those in the U.S. As always, our athlete services team is available to answer questions or offer guidance. The Office of the Athlete Ombuds is also a resource to provide athletes with independent and confidential advice regarding these rules. Athletes may visit TeamUSA.org and usathlete.org for more information.
Our hearts and thoughts remain with all those preparing to compete and of course, with the people of Ukraine.
We promise to keep you updated as this continues to evolve.