Russian athletes have been banned from competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympics following the country’s doping scandal. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had opened suspension proceedings following the McLaren report, and has now confirmed the ban.
That report, published last month, detailed a state-sponsored doping programme operated by Russia.
The Russian Paralympic Committee is to appeal against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
In contrast to the IPC, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose not to hand Russia a blanket ban from the Olympic Games.
The Rio 2016 Paralympics begin in 31 days’ time, on 7 September, and 267 Russian athletes across 18 sports will now miss the Games.
“The anti-doping system in Russia is broken, corrupted and entirely compromised,” said IPC president Sir Philip Craven at a news conference on Sunday.
“The Russian Paralympic Committee are unable to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the IPC anti-doping code and the world anti-doping code within their own national jurisdiction and they can not fulfil its fundamental obligation as an IPC member.
“As a result, the Russian Paralympic Committee is suspended with immediate effect.”
Russian Paralympic Committee member Evgeniy Bukharov told Amira News World Service: “I’m disappointed and really shocked. The IOC decided to stay for the rights of the clean athletes and only to fight against the athletes who are involved in doping.
“I spoke with my team-mates from the organising committee and saw the reaction of the Russian Paralympic team, the athletes and coaches. They are very frustrated with this decision. If someone over four years tries to do their best to participate in the Games, suddenly to hear that they should not participate frustrated them.”
Craven’s damning words
He added: “Tragically this situation is not about athletes cheating a system, but about a state-run system that is cheating the athletes. The doping culture that is polluting Russian sport stems from the Russian government.
“The Russian government has catastrophically failed its para-athletes. Their ‘medals over morals’ mentality disgusts me. The complete corruption of the anti-doping system is contrary to the rules and strikes at the very heart of the spirit of Paralympic sport.
“It shows a blatant disregard for the health and wellbeing of athletes and, quite simply, has no place in Paralympic sport. Their thirst for glory at all costs has severely damaged the integrity and image of all sport, and has certainly resulted in a devastating outcome for the Russian Paralympic Committee and Para-athletes.”
Why was Russia banned?
Canadian law professor Richard McLaren’s report found that Russia’s sports ministry manipulated urine samples provided by its athletes between 2011 and 2015.
The report identified 27 samples relating to eight Para-sports, five of which are summer sports, including some governed by the IPC.
The IPC has also found evidence that samples were swapped during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games and it planned to reanalyse every Russian sample from Sochi.
The IPC allowed the Russian Paralympic Committee to present its case before it decided on the ban.
Paralympics takes a stand
The IOC was widely criticised for ignoring the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) recommendation to ban Russia from the Rio Olympics.
Instead, each individual sporting federation was given the power to decide if Russian competitors were clean to compete.
A three-person IOC panel then had the final say.
In the end, more than 270 Russian athletes were cleared to compete at the Olympics.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, speaking to Radio 5 live, said: “I think the IPC has taken a really strong stance, where the IOC has slightly passed the buck. I don’t think it will have the same political statement that it would if the Olympic athletes were banned. I do have some sympathy for the Russian Paralympians, there are maybe some innocent athletes who will be seriously affected by this. But it was better to say no to the Russian team than to do what the IOC did and pass it on to the international federations.
“As much as you want to protect innocent athletes and over the years there have been so many innocent athletes who have not had their moment in the sun, won medals and had sponsorship and media coverage they would have done because of cheating athletes. The bit that is unfair is that everything is being pinpointed on Russia. They are not the only country to have problems and not the only group of athletes that are maybe competing in Rio at the Olympics or Paralympics who might have banned substances in their blood.”
US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) chief executive Travis Tygart said the IPC’s decision was “inspiring”.
“The IPC showed strong leadership today in holding Russia’s state-organised doping accountable,” said Tygart. “Their unanimous decision goes a long way towards inspiring us all – most importantly clean athletes – and upholding the Paralympic values we admire.”
Wada said it supported the decision, adding it was “is in the interest of clean athletes and the clean sport movement”.
The British Paralympic Association said the IPC had taken a bold decision and congratulated it for taking a “clear stand”.
“It is crucial for the integrity of our sport that those involved, as well as the public, feel confident that all necessary measures are in place to tackle doping and the playing field is level”, a statement read.
Britain’s Paralympic gold medallist and world champion Richard Whitehead told the BBC’s World Service: “I feel that Paralympic sport will move forward and will be the shining light of what needs to happen within sport. Let’s hope that other sporting governing bodies also take the same light. ”
But the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) said it was “disappointed” and “troubled” by the IPC’s decision.
FEI President Ingmar De Vos said: “We believe the individual International Federations should be given the opportunity to defend the rights of their clean athletes.”