Winter Paralympics: Russian and Belarusian athletes allowed to compete as neutrals

By Sports Desk March 02, 2022

Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete at the 2022 Winter Paralympics as neutrals, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has confirmed.

The IPC made the announcement on Wednesday, two days before the nine-day event is scheduled to officially begin in Beijing.

While competitors from Russia and Belarus have been cleared to take part in the global showpiece, they must compete under the Paralympic flag and will not be included in the medal table.

IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement: "The IPC and wider Paralympic Movement is greatly concerned by the gross violation of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments in the days prior to the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. 

"The IPC Governing Board is united in its condemnation of these actions and was in agreement that they cannot go unnoticed or unaddressed.

"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. 

"Such neutrality is firmly anchored in the genuine belief that sport holds the transformative power to overcome our shortcomings and summon from within us the best of our humanity, especially in the darkest of moments.

"What we have decided upon is the harshest possible punishment we can hand down within our constitution and the current IPC rules."

The announcement comes six days on from Russian president Vladimir Putin ordering an invasion of Ukraine, with neighbouring Belarus effectively used as a staging post for Russian military.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week called for athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus to be prevented from taking part in all international sporting competitions.

In a statement issued on Monday, the IOC's executive board accused the governments of Russia and Belarus of a "breach of the Olympic Truce" following the attack on Ukraine.

Referencing that statement, Parsons declared further sanctions may follow, with the IPC confirming members will be invited to decide whether to suspend or terminate the membership of the two nations.

"Post-Beijing 2022, we will also take measures with our 206 member organisations to determine whether any breaches of the Olympic Truce for future Paralympic Games could lead to the possible suspension or termination of an NPC [National Paralympic Committee]," he said.

"It is deeply disappointing that such action is required. However, the IPC Governing Board believes it to be necessary in order to hold governments to account for actions that impact directly on the Paralympic Movement, the Paralympic Games and Paralympic athletes. 

"This is especially so given the origins of the Paralympic Movement, arising out of the horrific events of the Second World War.

"Now that this decision has been made, I expect all participating NPCs to treat the neutral athletes as they would any other athletes at these Games, no matter how difficult this may be. 

"Unlike their respective governments, these Paralympic athletes and officials are not the aggressors, they are here to compete in a sport event like everybody else.

"The eyes of the world will be watching the Paralympic Winter Games in the coming days.  It is vital we show to world leaders through our sport that we can unite as human beings and that our true power is found when promoting peace, understanding and inclusion. 

"This is at the core of what the Paralympic Movement does and what it stands for. We should not lose sight of this now, no matter what the circumstances."

The World Athletics Council announced on Tuesday that athletes from Russia and Belarus will be excluded from all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future.

A number of other sporting federations, including FIFA and UEFA, have also banned teams and athletes from the eastern European countries.

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