Russia Barred From Pyeongchang Paralympics, But Neutrals Allowed

The Russian Paralympic Committee remains suspended over doping and is barred from the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said in Bonn on Monday.

Individual Russians will be allowed to compete as neutrals at the March 9-18 Paralympics, the IPC said in a decision mirroring a similar ruling by the International Olympic Committee for the February 5-25 Winter Games.

Russian athletes have been competing as neutrals in qualification events in some winter sports, and the IPC said athletes in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboard and wheelchair curling should be allowed to take part if they meet a series of conditions.

Pyeongchang organizers welcomed the IPC decision and said it would ensure all athletes at both the Winter Games and the Paralympics receive the same support.

“The announcements by both the IOC and IPC heralds a new age for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and sport in the wider context,” organizing committee POCOG said.

“PyeongChang 2018 will symbolise the start of clean sport and fair competition for all moving forward. We are very proud to be part of the change.”

The IPC believes 30 to 35 Russians could qualify and be approved to compete under the name Neutral Paralympic Athlete (NPA). In Sochi four years ago, 69 Russians started.

Members of Russian ministries, including the Russian sport ministry, and members of the RPC governing board will not be accredited for the Games in any capacity, the IPC said.

Russia was barred by the IPC from the 2016 Rio Paralympics following an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren into alleged state-sponsored doping in Russian elite sport and at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The decision was in contrast to the IOC, which decided against banning all Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics, leaving the decision to individual international federations.

IPC president Andrew Parsons said the Russia Paralympic Committee had made “significant progress” on doping issues. Allowing individual athletes to compete “will not jeopardise our responsibility to ensure clean sport and a level playing field for all Para athletes,” he said.

The IPC decision follows a report by the IPC task force on monitoring measures being taken by Russia on doping.

While the RPC had taken a number of steps, two issues remained outstanding: the full reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) by WADA, and the lack of an official response “specifically and adequately addressing the findings made by Professor McLaren.”

Parsons said the IPC “face a different picture in Russia” compared to the situation before the Rio Games when the anti-doping system was “found to be totally compromised, corrupted and open to abuse.”

Russian Para athletes are now regularly tested and “are amongst the most scrutinised Para athletes in the world,” he said.

“Under the supervision of WADA, we now have greater confidence that the anti-doping system in Russia is no longer compromised or corrupted.”

In Germany, the decision was welcomed by the national Olympic sport movement. Alfons Hoermann, president of the Olympic sport body DOSB, said the IPC was confirming a ruling by the IOC.

“It’s a good progression on the status of the Rio Games. This time we’re going to the Olympic winter games with a far better feeling,” he said.

However, the decision was criticised by Germany’s National Paralympic Committee, whose president, Friedhelm Julius Beucher, said the IPC “has now bowed to some pressure.”

He added: “The decision is in our view incomprehensible. It is a pity that the IPC has moved away from its consistent anti-doping policy.”

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