MOSCOW (Reuters) - The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on Wednesday authorized Russian athletes in four disciplines to compete as neutrals in qualifying events for the Pyeongchang Paralympic Winter Games but upheld Russia’s suspension over widespread doping.
Russia did not compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics after its team were suspended over allegations of a state-sponsored doping program. Dozens of Russians were banned from competing at the Rio Olympics for the same reason.
IPC president Philip Craven said the decision to allow some Russian sportspeople to compete as neutrals was designed to prevent a situation where they might be left with too few events to qualify for the 2018 Paralympics if Russia’s suspension was lifted beforehand.
The Pyeongchang Paralympic Winter Games take place in South Korea from March 9 to 18.
“The IPC also hopes this decision will further encourage the RPC (Russian Paralympic Committee), and crucially the Russian authorities, to meet the remaining reinstatement criteria as soon as possible,” Craven said, according to a transcript published on the IPC’s website.
Russian athletes who meet the IPC’s requirements, including compliance with its anti-doping standards, would be allowed to compete as neutrals in Alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing and snowboard qualifying events, Craven said.
He said government officials and representatives of the RPC’s governing board would not be allowed to attend any of the qualifying competitions. That restriction will stay until the IPC reviews the situation in November.
Craven said Russia had made “significant progress” since being suspended in August 2016 and that only seven reinstatement criteria remained, five of which “we believe can be fulfilled in the near future barring any unexpected developments”.
The two other criteria are the reinstatement of anti-doping agency RUSADA and the authorities’ acceptance of the McLaren report, which uncovered widespread state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“Professor McLaren’s findings must be specifically addressed, whether by acknowledging the findings and tackling the problems, or by properly rebutting the findings,” Craven said.
“This is a fundamental requirement as unless and until the problems that led to the RPC’s suspension are fully understood and addressed, they cannot be fixed for the future.”
RUSADA and Russia’s athletics federation remain suspended over a 2015 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report containing evidence of systematic and state-sponsored doping.
WADA in June allowed RUSADA to plan and coordinate testing under the supervision of international experts, in a move it called a milestone towards the agency’s compliance.
WADA is tentatively scheduled to audit RUSADA later this month.
Editing by Andrew Osborn and Clare Fallon