MANAMA – Russians and Belarusians will be allowed to compete as neutral athletes at next year's Paralympics in Paris after avoiding a full ban from the event following the invasion of Ukraine.
The International Paralympic Committee voted 74-65 at an assembly in Bahrain on Friday against suspending Russia's membership entirely — which would have meant a full ban from the Paralympics — but then voted 90-65 in favor of “partially” suspending the country through 2025.
The IPC said Russia's national Paralympic committee was being partially suspended because of “breaches of its constitutional membership obligations."
Later Friday, the IPC said members similarly rejected a full ban for Russia ally Belarus and imposed a partial suspension.
Russians “will be eligible to participate in an individual and neutral capacity” at the Paralympics and other IPC-governed sports events, the IPC said. It didn't spell out the exact criteria, but said the athletes would compete as individuals, with no team entries allowed.
Any Russian delegation in Paris may be reduced in numbers compared to previous Paralympics in part because the country's athletes have already missed a large part of the qualification period. The IPC only governs qualification directly in only some of the sports on the Paris program, including track and field and swimming. Other governing bodies have their own rules on Russian athletes for events which count as Paralympic qualifiers.
Sports bodies which have readmitted Russian athletes have generally required that they compete without the country's flag or other national symbols, and vetted athletes' public statements and social media posts for pro-war messages.
Russia can appeal the ruling to an IPC tribunal. The tribunal overturned an earlier suspension in May. In that case, the tribunal ruled members should have considered more evidence beforehand, according to an IPC summary of the ruling at the time.
Athletes from Russia and Belarus arrived at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing in March 2022, about a week after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. They were excluded a day before the opening ceremony.
The IPC sought to include them as neutral athletes but reversed course after other countries said they would boycott. At the time, IPC president Andrew Parsons cited an “untenable” security situation in the athletes village.
The IPC previously excluded Russia entirely from the 2016 Paralympics because of widespread doping and cover-ups in multiple sports. It allowed Russian athletes to compete without national symbols at the 2018 Winter Paralympics and the most recent Summer Paralympics in Tokyo in 2021.
The International Olympic Committee favors letting Russians and Belarusians compete in international sports events as neutral athletes without national symbols as long as they aren’t in the military and haven’t publicly supported the war. The IOC says it hasn’t made a decision on next year's Paris Olympics.
AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games