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Alexander Popov believes Russia's sanctions will be lifted soon over competition quality fears ©Getty Images

Alexander Popov, a four-time Olympic and six-time world swimming champion, has said he could see the Russian sports sanctions dropped soon, claiming the loss of athletes from the country – and Belarus – will hurt organisers of events.

Speaking to Russia’s official state news agency TASS, Popov said the bans on Russians and Belarusians – who were punished due to their nations’ involvement in the invasion of Ukraine and the breach of the Olympic Truce – would be short-lived.

“Unfortunately, the postulate that sport is out of politics has lost its force,” said Popov to TASS.

“We are waiting for common sense to prevail. 

“I am more than sure that this is short-lived. 

“Have you watched the World [Ice] Hockey Championship?”

Popov said that the removal of Russia – who were to compete under the Russian Hockey Federation banner due to sanctions by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and World Anti-Doping Agency due to systemic anti-doping breaches – and Belarus from the ice hockey tournament had devalued the Championship.

Finland won the 2022 Ice Hockey World Championship, which was missing Russia ©Getty Images
Finland won the 2022 Ice Hockey World Championship, which was missing Russia ©Getty Images

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has won five men’s world titles, the last coming in 2014.

Belarus has never made the final four of the tournament since its independence.

Popov followed up by saying there were sporting events set to take place between the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – a post-Soviet group – as well as Friendship Games events in Kazan and Minsk in “July or August”.

“It is clear that this is not a World Championship,” added Popov, acknowledging that this would not breach any rules.

On February 28, the International Olympic Committee recommended that International Federations ban athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus from major competitions in response to the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Popov claimed back-to-back 50 metres and 100m freestyle swimming titles at the Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

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