International Paralympic Committee Suspends Russia, Belarus Memberships

The International Paralympic Committee has voted to suspend the memberships of the National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) of Russia and Belarus. The decision was made in an Extraordinary General Assembly in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday, with the majority of national federations that make up the membership of the IPC voting to suspend the countries after Russia invaded Ukraine in February of this year with the support of Belarus.

Only 50%+1 votes were required.

Voting Breakdown:

  • Russia: 64-39 in favor of suspension (16 abstaining) – 62.1%
  • Belarus: 54-45 in favor of suspending (18 abstaining) – 58.6%

10 more NPCs voted in favor of suspending Russia than Belarus – the latter of which has provided a supporting role in the invasion of Ukraine, but so far are not believed to have sent any troops across the border.

The decision by the membership “stems from their inability to comply with their membership obligations under the IPC Constitution,” a press release says.

“This includes the obligations to ‘ensure that, in Para sport within the Paralympic Movement, the spirit of fair play prevails, the safety and health of the athletes are protected, and fundamental ethical principles are upheld’ and ‘not to do anything (by act or omission) that is contrary to the purpose or objects of the IPC and/or that risks bringing the IPC, the Paralympic Movement, or Para sport into disrepute’.”

While the clause cited is vague in certain ways, in others, it can be directly applied to the Russian invasion in Ukraine, as Russia missiles have hit a number of key sporting facilities. That includes the country’s primary Olympic pool in Kharkiv, as well as the Neptune Pool in Mariupol that was under renevation with a planned use as a Paralympic training center.

Ukraine, due in large part to a huge federal investment into Paralympic training centers around the country, is one of the success stories of the Paralympic movement. At the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, they ranked 6th in the overall medals table with 24 gold and 98 total medals. That’s not far behind Russia (36 gold, 118 total), which was 4th under a neutral flag.

Belarus won 5 gold among 7 total medals, All but 1 bronze medal of their haul came in swimming.

In combination, Russia and Belarus combined for 55 medals in swimming at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. That represents 12.5% of the medals that were offered.

The IPC previously banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in March. Athletes from both countries, including Russians under a neutral flag, were allowed to compete at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. That event concluded 4 days before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

The suspension of the national committees stands in sharp contrast to other international governing bodies, including the IOC. Russian and Belarusian athletes are suspended from most global sporting competition, but their administrators in most cases have not been suspended. The IOC, the IPC’s peer organization for Olympic sport, has wavered in its public statements on Russian athlete suspension, but has never publicly recommended a suspension of their National Olympic Committee.

Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “As a democratic, membership-based organisation, it was important to allow the General Assembly, as the supreme body of the IPC, to take a decision on this important matter.

“Before votes were taken on the respective motions, IPC members had the opportunity to express their views. This included hearing from the NPCs of Russia and Belarus who, under German Law which governs our Constitution, had the right to attend, speak, and present their case to the Extraordinary General Assembly. Ultimately, our membership has decided to suspend both NPCs with immediate effect, until further notice.

“As IPC President, I want us to live in a world where sport unites the world in peaceful competition, enabling athletes to compete against their rivals to the best of their abilities in a safe and secure environment.

“The situation that the world of sport faces right now is highly charged and complex. I hope and pray that the conflict in Ukraine ends as soon as possible, that peace is secured, and that no more innocent lives are lost or impacted.”

Both NPC Russia and NPC Belarus now have the right to appeal the decision. Should any appeal not be upheld then only the General Assembly can revoke the suspension. The next IPC General Assembly is due to take place in the final quarter of 2023 at a venue yet to be confirmed.

The Extraordinary General Assembly also approved a motion amending the IPC Constitution to allow the IPC Governing Board to impose protective measures if there is an extraordinary event that risks compromising the safety, viability, integrity, and/or fairness of the Paralympic Games, any other Para sport competition sanctioned or authorised by the IPC, or any other IPC activities.

This amendment gives the 14-member IPC Governing Board more flexibility in reacting to issues like this without having to poll the entire membership, for example, if they need to withdraw meet hosting rights from a country. There are no Russian, Belarusian, or Ukrainian members of the IPC Governing Board.

The most recent casualty report from the United Nations, on November 14, says that a total of 10,074 civilians have been injured and 6,557 civilians have been killed. This week, the conflict saw its first two civilian casualties outside of Ukraine’s borders when a missile landed on a farm in Poland near the Ukraine border.

Both Ukraine and the United Nations have reported evidence of a significant number of war crimes in Ukraine as well, with more evidence being uncovered as Ukrainian forces retake land in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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