SEOUL (Yonhap) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has assured Ukrainian fencer Olha Harlan, who was disqualified after refusing to shake hands with a Russian athlete after a match at the world fencing championships, that she will compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics. “Taking into account your special circumstances, we will allocate you an additional quota if you do not qualify for the remainder of the Paris Games,” the IOC said in a letter signed by President Thomas Bach on Aug. 28 (local time).Harlan had defeated Russian Anna Smirnova 15-7 in the round of 64 of the women’s individual sabre at the 2023 World Championships in Milan, Italy, the day before, but was disqualified for failing to shake Smirnova’s hand afterward.International Fencing Federation (FIE) rules state that the two athletes must shake hands after a bout, but Harlan refused to shake hands with Smirnova, who is from Russia, a country at war with her homeland. After Harlan left, Smirnova placed a chair on the piste and stayed on the ice for 50 minutes in protest, leading to Harlan’s disqualification. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year, athletes from Russia and its backer Belarus have faced sanctions, including bans from various international sporting events, but the IOC has cleared sportstotozonecom the way for athletes from those countries to compete this year with a spot in Paris at stake. A number of restrictions were placed on athletes who were members of the Russian-Belarusian armed forces or on teams with military contracts, including banning them from competing in team events. Outside of women’s professional tennis, the first time athletes from these countries have faced off on the international stage was between Harlan and Smirnova, which sparked controversy when the Ukrainian was disqualified for refusing to shake hands. Olympic fencing spots are allocated based on world rankings, with the World Championships being the event where the most ranking points are awarded. The IOC extended the invitation in the aftermath of the disqualification in case Harlan was unable to qualify for the Olympics .In the letter, the IOC said it would “continue to stand in full solidarity with Ukrainian athletes and the Olympic community in Ukraine during this extremely difficult time.” “The most important thing for an athlete is to be able to compete for the family, the team, the country and everyone who supports you,” Harlan told Reuters, adding, “I am grateful for all the support I received from around the world during these difficult days .”He reiterated his call for the FIE to change the rules, saying: “During this war, we can’t shake hands (with Russian athletes). They should respect us. “Harlan is a Ukrainian fencing hero who has won four individual world championships and helped her country win the women’s sabre team title at the 2008 Beijing Olympics .Bach, who heads the IOC, is a former German national fencer who won gold medals in the men’s foil team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the men’s foil team at the 1977 World Championships. Meanwhile, the FIE has allowed Harlan to compete in the team event at the World Championships on Sept. 29-30.