Paralympics lift Russia doping suspension

Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), says it is ‘no longer necessary’ to ban Russian Paralympic athletes from future winter and summer games. (AFP pic)

BONN: The International Paralympic Committee said it will reinstate Russia next month, lifting a suspension imposed more than two years ago over a doping scandal.

The IPC will lift the ban by March 15, providing the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) adheres to strict conditions.

“In August 2016 the IPC suspended the RPC because it was necessary and proportionate to the situation we faced and essential to ensure clean sport,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said.

“Twenty-nine months later it is the IPC governing board’s firm belief that keeping the RPC suspended is no longer necessary and proportionate to the situation we now face in Russia.”

A year ago, the International Olympic Committee ended its ban on Russian athletes competing at future summer and winter Olympics, so the re-admittance of the Paralympic team is the latest step in Russia’s gradual rehabilitation in the Olympic movement.

The IPC said in a statement the Russian Paralympic Committee had met the necessary criteria for reinstatement — which must be maintained — after implementing a “robust” testing programme under the guidance of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and launched an anti-doping education programme for athletes and coaches.

Stanislav Pozdniakov, chairman of the RPC, hailed the news as a “very important step” but noted that “there is still much work to be done to implement the instructions of the International Paralympic Committee”.

A Kremlin spokesman said Russia was “absolutely thrilled for our Paralympic athletes”.

“(President Vladimir) Putin has always shown them full and unconditional support,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“We hope the constructive and transparent work will allow the Russian sports authorities to turn the page in their relations with international bodies.”

Russia’s Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said the RPC “worked for two and a half years for its rehabilitation, and we did a tremendous job”.

Russia was kicked out of the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as both editions in 2018, in the wake of the bombshell 2016 McLaren report, by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, which alleged the country was operating a state-backed doping programme.

However, some able-bodied Russian athletes, with clean records, were allowed to compete under a neutral banner at the Olympics.

Track and field’s governing body has maintained its ban on Russia competing as a team, although last month it cleared 42 Russian athletes to return to competition, albeit under a neutral banner.