IPC says Russians, Belarusians will compete as 'neutral athletes' at Beijing Paralympics
Both delegations excluded from medal table; no events to be held in either country
Russians and Belarusians at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing will compete as "neutral athletes" because of their countries' roles in the war against Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee said Wednesday.
Russian athletes had already been slated to compete as RPC, short for Russian Paralympic Committee, as punishment for the state-sponsored doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and a subsequent cover-up.
The IPC added more restrictions when the Paralympics open on Friday, but stopped short of expulsion. Belarus was sanctioned for its part in aiding Russia with the invasion and war against Ukraine.
Both delegations will be excluded from the medal table, and the IPC said it would not hold events in either country "while the present situation continues."
"What we have decided upon is the harshest possible punishment we can hand down within our constitution and the current IPC rules," IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement. "In deciding what actions the IPC should take, it was fundamental that we worked within the framework of our new constitution to remain politically neutral and within the IPC Handbook, the rules and regulations that govern the Paralympic Movement."
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Athletes from Russia and Belarus will compete under the Paralympic flag and the Paralympic anthem. The RPC delegation must cover the "RPC" symbol on uniforms in all events and ceremonies. The Belarus delegation must cover its national flag on uniforms.
The IPC said it would also withdraw the "Paralympic Honor" given to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It said "Paralympic Orders" were also withdrawn from: Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi organizing committee (now Russia's deputy prime minister); Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister of Russia (now deputy chief of staff of the presidential executive office); Oleg Syromolotov, chief of the Interagency Security Command Centre for the Sochi Games (now deputy foreign minister); Alexander Gorovoy, deputy chief of Interagency Security Command Centre (now first deputy interior minister).
Holding a photo of Ukrainian biathlete Yevhen Malshev, who was killed this week, Journalist Lee Reaney asks IPC President what he would say to the parents of Malyshev.<br><br>Here’s part of the exchange, Reaney explains he was the only journalist allowed to leave Ukraine to be here. <a href="https://t.co/37XSBCP4Rw">pic.twitter.com/37XSBCP4Rw</a>—@Devin_Heroux
Lee Reaney is Canadian. <br><br>He’s been in Ukraine for about 10 years. <br><br>During the press conference he bravely asked questions while holding a photo of Ukrainian biathlete Yevhen Malshev, who was killed this week. <a href="https://t.co/189Vu7qkHa">pic.twitter.com/189Vu7qkHa</a>—@Devin_Heroux
The International Olympic Committee on Monday pushed sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes from international events, but it left the final decision to individual governing bodies. The IOC has been slow to crack down on Russia, allowing its athletes to compete in the last four Olympics following Sochi.
The IOC said the action was needed now to "protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants" but left sports bodies with a way around the exclusion by adding that Russians and Belarusians could compete as neutral athletes or teams if expulsion was not possible because of short notice.
Parsons acknowledged the possibility that some Paralympic athletes might refuse to compete against their counterparts from Russia. He also had said the options for the IPC were "limited" because of the possibility of legal challenges from Russia or elsewhere.
IOC President Thomas Bach will not attend the Paralympics and has designated Parsons — an IOC member — to represent the body. IOC vice president Ser Miang Ng was to attend, but has tested positive for COVID-19. The IOC said Ng had only mild symptoms.
Paralympic officials say 648 athletes and 49 delegations will take part in the Winter Paralympics. There were 2,900 athletes at last month's Winter Olympics with 91 delegations.
Officials say 71 Russian athletes are expected to compete in the Paralympics, joined by 20 from Ukraine. The entire Ukrainian delegation was expected to arrive in time for Friday's opening ceremony. The Paralympics close March 13.
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