Belarusian rider Dmitriy Mazanov banned from Baja Portalegre 500 despite opposition to war
Dmitry Mazanov was about to bring his bike to Portugal to compete in this weekend’s race Baja Portalegre 500but the sanctioning body Federacao Motociclismo Portugal says otherwise, revoking his registration at the last minute because of his Belarusian nationality. While the verdict would follow the FIMpolicies created after Russia invaded Ukraine, Mazanov was able to lead other FIM Bajas World Cup events like the Hungarian baja in August, suggesting that the decision came mainly from the Portuguese federation rather than the FIM.
Belarus is Russia’s closest ally and was involved in the invasion by providing a staging area and allowing Russian troops to launch missiles into Ukraine. This with the President Alexander LukashenkoThe authoritarian regime in Belarus has generated significant condemnation around the world and resulted in a wide range of sanctions against Belarus. A month before the invasion, the truck racing team MAZ-sportauto was denied admission to the 2022 Dakar Rally following the sanction of parent company MAZ.
After the large-scale invasion began, many sports bodies imposed restrictions on Russian and Belarusian competitors. The FIA has created a series of “emergency measures” that those of these nationalities had to sign before they could participate in races supervised by the authority. The policies included formal denunciation of the invasion, solidarity with Ukraine, agreement not to place their country’s emblems on their equipment and run with a different country or a neutral FIA flag.
While some like Denis Crotov, Robert Schwartzmann, Alexander Smolyarand Konstantin Zhiltsov signed the terms, others refused including Sergei Kariakin, Anastasia Nifontovaand Master KAMAZ; Kariakin went so far write a letter to the president of the FIA Mohammad Ben Sulayem lobbying for its end. Opponents slam the rules as a ‘double standard’ that forces Russian citizens to oppose their own country.
In a video posted on Wednesday, Mazanov explains that the FIM is simply applying a strict ban to Belarusian riders without giving them the opportunity to publicly condemn the invasion. He points out that despite being a Belarusian citizen, he does not support the war and has not lived there lately; in fact, he mentions, he resided in Ukraine and competed under a Ukrainian license.
“I am a citizen of Belarus, but I haven’t lived there for the past few years,” says Mazanov in his video. “Before the war, I often lived in Ukraine, where I trained, took part in competitions, prepared for the Dakar Rally. Over the past three years, I have competed with the Ukrainian national racing license in many countries and competitions, and won many medals and titles.
“My sporting calendar for this year should start in March with Baja Ukraine in Kherson and be accompanied by other races, World and European Rally Championships and Baja. All for one dream: to qualify for the Dakar Rally.
“Unfortunately, this spring the FIM banned Belarusian riders from participating in international competitions, even those who share the principles of humanism and oppose war and were forced to leave their homeland because of their position .”
Mazanov also points out that Lukashenko’s policies do not reflect the general attitude of the Belarusian population, which was perhaps best exemplified by the massive protests against his government following the widely deemed rigged 2020 presidential election.
“In my opinion, Lukashenko is not equal to Belarusians, because most Belarusians do not support his actions. That is why sanctions should not target all Belarusian people.
The FIA, for example, allows drivers who have signed an anti-war declaration to participate in any competition. The FIM does not allow it.
With that in mind, he comments that privateers like him don’t have the ability to continue racing freely compared to those with factory and government support like MAZ-sportauto. Although also excluded from the 2023 Dakar Rally, MAZ-sportauto competed alongside KAMAZ-master in the Russian Rally Raid Championship waiting.
To make ends meet, Mazanov runs mad dash, a manufacturer of roadbook devices for cross-country motorcycle riders. Despite the circumstances, he still plans to be allowed to race in Dakar in 2024
“It hurts athletes who receive no support from the government and have to find the funds for competitions themselves,” Mazanov continues. “I also pay for my races by producing my own MAD Racing-branded rally devices, which have become very popular because they are better than devices from other brands. At each run, I make sure the devices work perfectly, and I add new features based on my experience and customer requests. On Baja Portalegre I was going to use the latest update before applying for all units.
“But someone at FMP, thinking that banning me from starting would stop the war. If so, I hope it will happen very soon.
“In the meantime, I will continue to prepare for the Dakar 24 and the other rallies and bajas that I will be authorized to take at the start. I will also focus on my MAD Racing brand to improve my results and the results of my customers.