Olympic champion Sebastian Coe announced, on Monday, that sports federations set a precedent by preventing Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing after the invasion of Ukraine, and must remain firm to keep them in place.

Coe is a two-time British Olympic sprinter and is now the president of World Athletics, athletics’ governing body. He spoke four days before the start of the World Indoor Championships. Both Russians and Belarusians were excluded from the event in Serbia.

“Not a single sports federation naturally wants to exclude teams or individuals. This is not what we came for,” Coe said during a video conference. “But I think we have to realize that this is a game changer. And yes, you will set precedents.

Athletes and teams from Russia and Belarus have been expelled from dozens of sports since Russian forces invaded Ukraine last month and some soldiers entered through Belarus. The biggest events that will be immediately affected by the decision to ban Russians and Belarusians are the upcoming athletics championships, the World Championships in figure skating and football.

The Russian Football Federation has appealed against a football ban that includes the Russian national team from the World Cup qualifiers and Russian club Spartak Moscow from the European League. The first appeal rulings are expected this week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport – the world’s highest sports court.

“We fully accept that this will set precedents and that these precedents must be confronted individually and sequentially and will remain with us for years to come,” Coe said. “We didn’t make it easy on ourselves, but it’s still the right decision.

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“You can’t have aggressor countries where you’ve changed the landscape so as not to violate the integrity of the competition, while the actions of their governments affected the integrity of the sport elsewhere.”

Russia’s World Cup qualifier opponent, Poland, has said he will not play against his country on March 24. Other potential competitors, the Czech Republic and Sweden, said the same.

Athletics was the toughest for Russians after the state-sponsored doping scandal that occurred at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The Russians must now be individually tested to compete in international competitions on the track. The Russian Track Association has been banned since 2015.

“I don’t have a problem with [banning Russians] Because that’s what we’ve done in our sport. I don’t understand why it would be any different in any other sport if you judge the fairness of this sport,” Coe said. “Oh my gosh, I’ve seen teams in football who decided they weren’t going to play in the playoffs.

“The impact is huge. So they are going to have to be really firm and do exactly what we did.”