In the most extreme anti-doping measure yet, the International Paralympic Committee has decided to forbid all Russian athletes from competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games, which are scheduled to take place after the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from September 7th – 18th.
As long as the Russian Paralympic Committee is suspended, it may not enter athletes in the 2016 Paralympic Games. While this ruling is similar to the controversial rulings and re-rulings made by the IOC in regards to Russian athletes, it is important to understand that the IOC and the IPC, though partners, are separate organizations.
After the controversial McLaren Report, published by WADA, there were proposals to ban Russia in the Olympic Games, currently taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Though no complete ban was imposed on Russian athletes, many athletes were pulled from the Russian roster after having tested positive for banned substances, most notably the entire Russian athletics team. Overall, the Russian Olympic team was cut by about 30% after the IOC decided that a wholesale ban was too extreme. However, many of the athletes that were initially banned appealed to the Court of Arbitration of Sport for reconsideration. Some of the athletes that appealed to CAS, including Vlad Morozov and Yulia Efimova, were allowed to compete anyways.
The IPC justifies its decision with the following statements:
“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 and has now been uncovered in not one, but two independent reports commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.”
What is important to remember regarding this decision is that, in the words of the IPC, that athletes have had little or no say in whether or not they would cheat the system in order to increase Russian medal count:
“I believe 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 well-being 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.”
This decision goes beyond just the Paralympic Games. The Russian Paralympic Committee is also suspended from participating in any IPC conferences or summits:
“The effect of the suspension is that the Russian Paralympic Committee loses all rights and privileges of IPC membership. In particular, a member is not entitled to be heard, except with respect to their suspension, or to vote at meetings of members, and/or to enter athletes in competitions sanctioned by the IPC, and/or to participate in IPC activities.”
Given news of this magnitude, there will likely be appeals to the IPC; however, political backlash is certain to follow, regardless of whether or not the decision is repealed. The Russian Paralympic Committee has until August 28th to appeal the decision. The full release from the IPC can be read here.