Russia Is Banned From Paralympics, Again, for Doping

Russia Is Banned From Paralympics, Again, for Doping


The Paralympic decision stands somewhat in contrast to the International Olympic Committee’s ruling on Russia’s participation in the 2018 Winter Games next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Unlike their Olympic counterparts, Paralympic officials had not previously allowed Russian athletes to bypass the ban and compete as individuals outside of qualifying events this fall. Olympic officials, who nominally banned Russia last month, have given 169 Russian athletes special clearance to compete when the Olympics begin on Feb. 9. (The Paralympics, the global showcase for disabled athletes, will follow on March 9.)

Mr. Parsons said Monday that Paralympic officials would allow up to 35 Russian athletes who met “strict conditions,” including a rigorous history of drug testing, to compete in Pyeongchang as neutral athletes in a handful of sports, including alpine skiing, biathlon and wheelchair skiing. That number that is roughly half the size of the team Russia typically sends.

“Different from the Rio period when we couldn’t guarantee which athletes were clean and which athletes were not,” Mr. Parsons said, referring to the 2016 Games, where no Russian Paralympian competed, “now we can have a very good understanding of which athletes were clean and which athletes are not.”

Each Russian Paralympian who is approved to compete, he said, will be identified in competition as a “Neutral Paralympic Athlete.” Olympic officials have approved individual Russian athletes to be identified by their nationality, as “Olympic athlete from Russia.”

Asked by a Russian journalist why Paralympic officials were not similarly allowing Russian athletes to show their national pride, Paralympic officials stressed that there were consequences, given that Russia remained suspended. “We cannot use the name Russia in the title of team,” Craig Spence, spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee, said.

Russia’s state-backed cheating, deconstructed in investigative reports in 2016, corrupted the results of numerous major global competitions across disciplines and years — most dramatically the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. At those Paralympics, the host nation won 80 medals, nearly five dozen more than the second-ranking country.

Immediately after the revelations that Russian Paralympians had used anabolic steroids to gain an edge over their competitors in Sochi, the Paralympic Committee banned Russia in August 2016, weeks ahead of the Rio Games. Philip Craven, then head of the committee, denounced Russia as having chosen “medals over morals.”

In the roughly 18 months that followed, Paralympic officials outlined criteria for Russia’s path to reinstatement, including that Russian officials accept the detailed evidence of their systematic cheating. Another stipulation was that Russia’s antidoping agency be recertified by the global regulator of drugs in sports. Last November, that regulator denied Russia’s appeal for reinstatement, citing, in part, Russian officials’ lack of cooperation in sharing evidence from Moscow.

Russian officials have apologized broadly for doping problems while refuting that the state directed widespread cheating. In recent months leading up to decisions about the 2018 Games, Moscow escalated its prosecution of a key whistle-blower living in the United States, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, against whom criminal charges were filed in Russia in November. Earlier this month, hackers tied to the Russian government released a new crop of stolen emails seeking to expose — and perhaps stoke — discord between global sports officials and antidoping authorities.

Russia’s inability to participate in the last Paralympics in Brazil provoked particularly pointed outcry from top Russian officials. President Vladimir V. Putin criticized the ban as “outside of the law, outside of morals and outside of humanity,” characterizing sanctions against the nation’s handicapped athletes as a Western effort to humiliate Russia’s weakest, most vulnerable citizens.

“It’s just cynical to take it out on people for whom sport has become the meaning of life,” Mr. Putin said in 2016, describing Russia’s banned Paralympians as “those who by their example give millions of people with limited capabilities hope and faith in their power.”



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