Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Banning Russian runners from the Boston Marathon accomplishes nothing

It’s unclear exactly what went into the thinking process of the Boston Athletic Association when it decided to bar Russian and Belarusian citizens from participating in this year’s Boston Marathon. It’s hard to tell what its aspirations were for what the move would accomplish, and how high they went. 

Because — in all likelihood — the only effect this will have is targeting a small handful of innocent Russian and Belarusian citizens who were able to qualify for the Boston Marathon. 

Will this have any impact on Vladimir Putin’s decision making in his invasion of Ukraine? It’s hard to say, but — going out on a limb here — there’s zero chance. 

If the decision to remove Russia from competition in international soccer and to remove them from the upcoming World Cup — two sporting events with far greater importance for Russia and, conceivably, Putin — didn’t cause him to change course in any way, then the Boston Marathon’s decision to remove Russian runners means literally nothing. 

Perhaps banning Alex Ovechkin — a Russian NHL player considered one of the greatest all time in the sport, who happens to be a good friend of Putin — from being able to play hockey would help to end the war in Ukraine. Only because he might be able to speak to Putin or others in power in Russia.

But unless all the Russians who were going to be running the Marathon were oligarchs  or Putin’s buddies, this move doesn’t do anything like that. 

It’s a strange offshoot of cancel culture in this new war that many Western companies, events and individuals are “canceling” Russian businesses and people. And like the BAA it’s hard to tell what these people are thinking that they’re doing by canceling Russia. 

To believe that just because someone lives in a certain country means that they unequivocally support their government’s policy decisions or should face the same restrictions and punishments that their political leaders do is equally stupid. 


Viral videos of package stores across the country pouring out their Russian vodka are funny. But reports of people boycotting or even vandalizing Russian generational family-owned restaurants in places like New York City are not.

Russian citizens living elsewhere don’t deserve any kind of discrimination because of their government’s actions.

Imagine if after the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2004, American cyclists were prohibited from competing in the Tour De France. Would that have stopped Bush from continuing the invasion? Probably not. 

A move like this only punishes people who have no power over the war in Ukraine. 

But if they were, wouldn’t a city like Boston be a deterrent for the kind of anti-democratic and imperialist actions that Russia is currently taking in Ukraine? If top oligarchs were running in the Marathon and had to spend the weekend in Boston wouldn’t our city’s history teach them something about the importance of freedom?

Walking the Freedom Trail and learning about what happened when a country tried to bend a peaceful self-governing territory to their will. 

The Boston Marathon experience could foster more pro-democracy sentiment in everyday Russian citizens and oligarchs alike. The experience could turn a few apathetic citizens into anti-war advocates. Making sure they stay in Russia and can’t participate in a Bostonian tradition makes sure this won’t happen, and could even foster anti-American and anti-Democratic sentiment. 

While it’s likely too late now to reverse course on their decision, the BAA should send out marathon jackets and race bibs to all the Russian and Belarusian runners who were denied access to this year’s race. 

We need to move past these phony attempts at resolving conflict that in the end sew division and cause far more harm than they do good. 

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  1. Amen! This is racism plain and simple. I’m from the Boston area and disgraced by this decision. Black Lives Matter but not Russian? What a haven of hypocrisy this place is.

  2. BU class of 2018

    Lol the author just said “editors” because they didn’t want to put a name to their stupid opinion. Russian sympathizers like yourself are supporting Putin by not wanting punishments like this.
    You are missing the entire point of this. You could argue that any single action against Russia will not influence Putin. This is true. Just like any single vote will not swing an election. However, when there are examples on examples on examples of Russians being impacted by Putin’s actions, and as more and more Russians get upset about it, that is the only way that these things can make a difference.
    It is extremely short-sighted to say that one action will not make an impact.