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Russia banned from Paralympics over doping

The head office of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal. Reuters/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) banned Russia from participating at the upcoming Winter Games in Pyeongchang on Monday but left the door open for individual athletes to compete as neutrals.

The IPC said it was upholding its suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) for not having done enough to comply with international doping standards.

“Despite solid progress, the RPC has still not met two key reinstatement criteria,” said IPC President Andrew Parsons, referring to compliance with World Anti-Doping Agency regulations and responding to previous findings.

“Because the reinstatement criteria have not being met in full, the IPC governing board approved the IPC task force’s recommendation to maintain the suspension of the RPC.”

However, the IPC said about 30-35 Russians will be allowed to compete as neutrals in five sports at the Winter Games in South Korea, which run 8-18 March.

“Allowing Russian parathletes who meet strict criteria to compete at Pyeongchang 2018 as neutrals will not jeopardise our responsibility to ensure clean sport and a level playing field for all athletes,” Parsons said.

The situation for Russian parathletes now matches that of 169 Russian Olympic athletes, who have been invited to participate as neutrals despite bans of the national team.

Tougher position than the Olympics

While it will be the first Winter Olympics without a Russian team, the IPC already went farther than the International Olympic Committee in 2016, excluding the Russian team and all Russian athletes from that year’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

In fact, Parsons underscored that allowing of Russians to compete as neutrals in Pyeongchang reflected an improvement in the situation.

“Although the RPC remains suspended, they have made significant progress and we have to recognise this,” Parsons said.

“Russian parathletes are regularly tested and they are amongst the most scrutinised parathletes in the world. […] We now have greater confidence that the anti-doping system in Russia is no longer compromised and corrupted.”