LONDON: The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has maintained its ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes participating in international tournaments, the governing body said on Thursday. The BWF first banned Russian and Belarusian athletes in March last year after Russia invaded Ukraine, initially using its ally Belarus as a staging ground in what Russia called a “special military operation”. The BWF’s decision comes despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommending last month that athletes from Russia and Belarus be allowed to return to competition as neutrals, providing they did not support the war or were not affiliated to the military. Table tennis, fencing, judo and taekwondo are among the Olympic sports which have readmitted athletes from the two countries as neutrals. The BWF said in a statement that the decision to extend the ban was taken at its council meeting on Tuesday. “BWF acknowledges that sport should foster peace and solidarity between all people, and that sport should not become a political vehicle for influence in geo-politics,” the governing body said. “In that sense, the guiding principle is that athletes should always be allowed to participate in sport competitions without judgement of their passport and separate of any geo-political conflict outside the control of the sports movement. “However… BWF is not convinced there is satisfactory justification to lift the suspensions on Russian and Belarussian players and officials at this time. “BWF continues to express unwavering support to the people of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian badminton community, and we strongly condemn the invasion of Ukraine, which works against BWF’s core values and our objective to obtain peace.” Singles and doubles qualification in badminton for next year’s Olympics in Paris will be based on results achieved in tournaments between May 1, 2023 and April 28, 2024.