World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue has claimed "sports and politics should be clearly separated" ©World Taekwondo

World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue has reiterated that he is "really saddened" by Ukraine's absence from the World Championships here, but defended the governing body's support for athletes from the country.

Ukraine has shunned the Championships in Azerbaijan's capital because of the decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as individual neutrals, provided they passed a verification process.

The Ukrainian Government has vowed to boycott all Paris 2024 Olympics qualification events with Russian and Belarusian involvement, and the country also boycotted the World Judo Championships in Doha earlier this month.

Although Choue doubled down on his defence of World Taekwondo's decision on Russia and Belarus, the South Korean official expressed his regret regarding Ukraine's non-participation.

"One thing really saddened was Ukraine athletes," he told insidethegames.

"They prepared for the World Taekwondo Championships for quite a long time, but it's not a personal decision,

"I believe the Government is suggesting they have to withdraw their teams because of the Russian and Belarusian athletes participating as neutrals.

"Our belief and my belief is sports and politics should be clearly separated.

"This year's motto is peace in mind, taekwondo at heart, and we are always focusing on peace is more precious than triumph."

Belarusian Georgii Gurtsiev, right, is among the neutral athletes to have medalled at the World Taekwondo Championships ©World Taekwondo
Belarusian Georgii Gurtsiev, right, is among the neutral athletes to have medalled at the World Taekwondo Championships ©World Taekwondo

When asked what steps World Taekwondo had taken to ensure Ukraine would compete at future events, Choue revealed that Ukraine Taekwondo Federation President Lesik Samandzhiya attended the World Championships and defended its record supporting their athletes since the invasion of Ukraine.

He pointed to covering expenses to allow Ukraine to participate at the World Poomsae Championships in Goyang last year, and working with the Italian Taekwondo Federation for athletes from the country to train there.

Choue added he plans to discuss initiatives to support Ukraine from Poland when he attends the Kraków-Małopolska 2023 European Games later this month.

"I believe World Taekwondo is doing humanitarian jobs not only Ukrainian athletes but also many other countries," he claimed.

"If they have problems we will support them.

"We are always supporting our athletes."

Despite being
Despite being "really saddened" by their absence from the World Taekwondo Championships, Chungwon Choue defended the governing body's support of Ukrainian athletes ©World Taekwondo

World Taekwondo's decision came following the lifting of a recommended outright ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in March in favour of allowing those who do not support the war in Ukraine and are not affiliated to the military to compete as individual neutrals.

Some sports including athletics have refused to follow the IOC's lead, but an increasing number have adopted its stance.

Choue admitted that World Taekwondo was influenced by the updated recommendations of the IOC.

"We are the governing body of sport taekwondo from the IOC, so we respect the IOC's decisions, we are following the recommendations," he said.

Individual Neutral Athletes have won four medals at the World Taekwondo Championships so far - a silver for Georgii Gurtsiev and bronze for Artsiom Plonis from Belarus, and bronzes for Kristina Adebaio and Polina Khan from Russia.

Critics have argued there should be no place for Russia and Belarus in sport while the war in Ukraine is ongoing and have warned athletes could be used for political purposes by Moscow and Minsk, while opponents in both countries have criticised the conditions for participation.