World Triathlon’s questionable relationship: Russian athletes banned, but continues to work with Russian-funded Super League Tri

A statement published yesterday by World Triathlon reveals that the federation is banning Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events. This is quite remarkable, because in 2018 World Triathlon (then ITU, ed.) signed a “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) with Super League Triathlon (SLT), the organization financed by Russian billionaire Leonid Boguslavsky. In addition, another new partnership between World Triathlon and Super League Triathlon was announced in November 2021, focusing on an eSports World Championships Series.

Boguslavsky is a Russian oligarch – a businessman from the former Soviet Union who acquired a great deal of political power during the period when the country transitioned from communism to capitalism and disintegrated into several republics – and also the co-founder of Super League Triathlon. Bogyslavsky’s wealth is estimated to be around five billion dollars.

In this latest statement, World Triathlon is openly distancing itself from the Russian-initiated war against Ukraine and banning of Russian athletes and officials, just as it did in earlier statements in recent days. It also indicates that World Triathlon will work with Ironman and Challenge Family in order for them to follow World Triathlon’s recommendations as well. However, both Ironman and Challenge Family have let it be known that they have not heard any signal from World Triathlon so far.

Let’s get back to 2018, when World Triathlon and SLT signed the MOU as part of the ITU Strategic Plan 2018-2021. That MOU was intended to further building triathlon around the world at many levels including youth development, fan building and audience engagement, and general promotion of the sport on a global scale. These are wonderful principles, but at the same time quite hypocritical to cooperate with the SLT while banning Russian athletes and officials at the same time.