The International Paralympic Committee will conditionally reinstate the Russian Paralympic Committee on March 15, bringing its 2.5-year ban to an end, the governing body announced Friday.
The International Olympic Committee opted to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency back in September 2018, but the IPC had taken a firmer stance on the RPC, as it did with its handling of Russian athletes at 2016 Paralympic Games.
While the IOC went sport-by-sport to evaluate Russian athlete participation in the 2016 Olympic Games, the IPC took the more authoritative step of barring the entire Russian team from competing at the 2016 Summer Paralympics. Russia was not allowed to compete under its flag at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, but the Russian Olympic Committee was reinstated following those games. The IPC allowed some Russian athletes to compete at the 2018 Winter Paralympics under the Paralympic flag – but not until after qualifying was completed for sled hockey.
When RUSADA was reinstated, the IPC issued a reaction affirming that the RPC would remain suspended until meeting a number of criteria that were presented in November 2016, including reimbursing the amount of money it owed the IPC for the cost of increased testing on Russian Para athletes and the creation of the IPC Taskforce, which was approximately €257,500 (about $304,000). In the announcement Friday, the IPC stated that the RPC met 69 of 70 requirements.
The only one remaining? Accepting the findings of the McLaren Report, which concluded “beyond a reasonable doubt” that more than 1,000 Russian Olympians and Paralympians had engaged in state-sponsored doping programs from 2011-2015.
Similarly, when the IOC reinstated RUSADA, it refused to accept McLaren’s findings, instead accepting the validity of the IOC Disciplinary Commission’s report, also known as the Schmid Commission’s report. That report’s findings differ from McLaren’s in that it did not find “any documented, independent and impartial evidence confirming the support or the knowledge of this system by the highest State authority.”
“At our meeting the Board concluded that disappointingly Russia most probably will never accept the findings of the McLaren Report, bearing in mind it has not provided any proper response to it since its publication in July 2016,” said IPC President Andrew Parsons. “Therefore, the Board was faced with a fairly straight-forward question: should we dig our heels in and continue waiting for a very unlikely Russian response to the McLaren Report – a move that will keep the RPC suspended indefinitely and, as a result, Russian Para athletes ineligible to compete – or do we consider whether it is possible to find another way forward to enable the RPC to comply with its IPC membership obligations?”
“The Board chose the latter and decided to lift the suspension under strict conditions,” said Parsons.
According to the IPC announcement, in addition to reimbursement, criteria met by the RPC included the following:
- Implementing a robust testing programme of Russian Para athletes under the close supervision of WADA•Launch of a new anti-doping education programme targeted at Para athletes and coaches
- Governance reforms that mean no government official can be appointed to any role within the RPC
- Introduction of a new whistle blower hotline whereby Para athletes, coaches and officials can report any suspicions they have regarding anti-doping – a development SwimSwam reported was in-the-works regarding classification in November 2017.
- Updating and finalising its anti-doping rules
- Reinstatement of RUSADA by WADA
“Russian Para athletes are amongst, and will continue to be, the most tested athletes in the Paralympic Movement. Under the supervision of WADA, RUSADA has effectively been rebuilt from the ground up, is back testing and is conditionally reinstated by the global body responsible for it,” Parsons added. “With these factors in mind, maintaining the RPC’s suspension on the grounds of Russia’s continuing refusal to not accept the McLaren Report does not seem right. We need to move things forward and find a solution that protects the integrity of Para sport, acknowledges the significant reforms made by the RPC, and enables the RPC to comply with its membership obligations.”
The IPC also published “strict conditions” with which the RPC must comply to remain reinstated. These include providing progress reports to the IPC every six months for at least the next three years and contributing to the cost of increased testing of Russian athletes through 2022.