USOPC chair Susanne Lyons claimed that "strict neutrality" would be required for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition ©Getty Images

United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chair Susanne Lyons has insisted that any potential return to international sport for Russian and Belarusian athletes would have to be under conditions of "strict neutrality".

Outgoing chair Lyons and her successor Gene Sykes travelled to Lausanne for Friday's (December 9) Olympic Summit, where a declaration to follow up an Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) proposal to enable Russian and Belarusian athletes to take part in its competitions was agreed by participants.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended that athletes from both countries are excluded from international sport since the end of February following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, although it claims that this is a "protective measure" distinct from sanctions implemented against Russia and Belarus covering bans on their flag, anthem, colours and other symbols.

Separately to the invasion of Ukraine, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), reduced from four to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, are set to expire on Saturday (December 17).

However, WADA President Witold Bańka has cast doubt on RUSADA's reinstatement.

The measures have led to Russian athletes competing at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympics under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) banner, following on from a separate appearance at Pyeongchang 2018 under the Olympic Athletes of Russia name due to the ROC's suspension.

The Olympic Summit vowed that sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian Governments and states "remain firmly in place", and Lyons insisted that this would ensure any future participation of athletes from both countries would be under stricter conditions.

Russian athletes competed under the
Russian athletes competed under the "neutral" Russian Olympic Committee banner at Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images

"I was one of those people who raised that question and there were others as well, because in the past when they've competed as 'neutrals', it still had the same colours, it still had the word Russia in it," Lyons said.

"There was absolute agreement in the room that this would have to be strict neutrality.

"What that would be I don't know but the sanctions are very specific, it cannot be the colours and it cannot be the name of the country.

"I think stricter neutrality would have to be maintained.

"They also talked about - this is going to be impossible to figure out how they would monitor it - but the athletes are supposed to not have been supporting the actions of their Government in terms of their offence against Ukraine.

"That was discussed, I don't know how they could possible really know whether an athlete is or is not supportive of their Government actions, but there was at least an agreement that they would want to have athletes who have not actively supported the conflict."

Susanne Lyons insisted that support for Ukrainian athletes was a
Susanne Lyons insisted that support for Ukrainian athletes was a "big part" of discussions at the Olympic Summit ©Getty Images

The USOPC chair added that the outcome of the Olympic Summit was "not about allowing Russia or Belarus the countries participate again", but "about whether athletes who happen to have been born in those countries and have passports from those countries have a pathway whereby they could compete as clean and neutral athletes going forward".

"What they endorsed was for the IOC to now engage in conversation with all stakeholders to see whether there could be a pathway back that would allow athletes from those countries to compete as neutrals," Lyons said.

"All of the details of how and when, and even if that could happen remain to be seen, but there was, and the US agreed with this, an agreement that the IOC could pursue that in the best long-term interest of the Movement."

The outcome of the Olympic Summit has been criticised in Ukraine by Youth and Sports Minister and National Olympic Committee President Vadym Guttsait and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Lyons insisted that showing support for Ukrainian athletes was a "big part of the conversation at the Summit", and pointed to the "fair amount of help and support offered by many countries within the Olympic Movement, including the US".