Paralympics ban for Russia
IPC head ‘disgusted’ by ‘medals over morals’ More ‘abhorrent’ revelations to come
‘Russia’s thirst for glory at all costs has severely damaged the integrity and image of all sport’
Russia was thrown out of the Paralympics yesterday, with the head of the movement proclaiming: “Their medals-over-morals mentality disgusts me.” The rogue nation paid the price for bringing about what the president of the International Paralympic Committee described as “one of the darkest days in the history of all sport”, one he warned threatened its very existence.
In a landmark ruling which destroyed the credibility of the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to ban Russia from the Olympics, Sir Philip Craven also revealed there were more “abhorrent” revelations to come from an ongoing investigation which has found Vladimir Putin’s government guilty both of state-sponsored doping and a corresponding cover-up on an “unprecedented” scale.
However, Craven refused to condemn the IOC – of which he is a member – for failing to show the same courage in its own handling of a crisis that has engulfed Rio 2016.
That was after announcing the IPC’s decision to suspend Russia’s national Paralympic committee with immediate effect, laying bare the latest findings of an investiga- tion into the scandal by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.
Craven revealed that on Friday McLaren had provided names of more athletes suspected of having positive drugs tests covered up at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics and elsewhere and warned of more to come. The findings were enough to convince the IPC board to declare the RPC “unable to ensure compliance” with the World AntiDoping Code in time for the Paralympics, which begin on Sept 7.
Craven said: “The Russian government has catastrophically failed its Para athletes. Their medals-overmorals mentality disgusts me. The complete corruption of the antidoping system is contrary to the rules and strikes at the very heart of the spirit of Paralympic sport.
“It shows a blatant disregard for the health and well-being of athletes and, quite simply, has no place in Paralympic sport. Their thirst for glory at all costs has severely damaged the integrity and image of all sport. Tragically, this situation is not about athletes cheating a system, but about a state-run system that is cheating the athletes.
“There is a great, great threat to world sport, to what we would view as the sporting spirit, that cannot be allowed to change fair competition, fair play, abiding by the rules. If we slacken off on that we are finished.”
The IPC’s decision was in contrast to that of the IOC, whose refusal to impose what its president Thomas Bach described as the “nuclear option” of a blanket ban on Russia from the Olympics resulted in more than two-thirds of its original delegation going to Rio.
Craven refused to condemn the organisation of which he is a member, defending a vote he cast in favour of that decision this week and arguing that the IOC’s rules are not the same as those of the IPC.
Craven expressed “sympathy” for the ostensibly “clean” competitors who would miss Rio 2016, as did the British Paralympic Associa- tion, which nevertheless backed the IPC’s “bold” decision.
“It is crucial for the integrity of our sport that those involved as well as the public feel confident that all necessary measures are in place to tackle doping and the playing field is level,” the BPA said in a statement. “The British Paralympic Association therefore congratulates the IPC on taking a clear stand based on the evidence provided to the McLaren report and their own subsequent investigation.”
Wada, which was slapped down by the IOC for urging it and the IPC to throw Russia out of the Olympics, said: “Wada supports the decision taken by the IPC, which we believe is in the interest of clean athletes.” The RPC was given 21 days to lodge an appeal against the IPC’s decision, something it immediately announced its intention to do. Russia won more than a third of medals at the Sochi Paralympics.
The head of the RPC, Vladimir Lukin, said: “If they accuse us of something, they should formulate the accusations in a clear and concrete manner. We can’t exclude someone because he’s part of some system, we can only exclude someone if he is guilty of something.”
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, banned from the Olympics after being implicated in the McLaren report, added: “In my view, this is beyond belief. It’s an unprecedented decision. I don’t understand what it’s based on.”
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “The decision to bar the entire Russian Paralympic team from the Paralympic Games is strikingly filthy and inhumane. It is a betrayal of those high human-rights standards the modern world is resting on.”
Craven shrugged off Russia’s response, insisting he had no fears about becoming the target of the kind of death threats directed at International Association of Athletics Federations president Lord Coe since the country was banned from track and field competitions.
He also declared Russia, which is hosting the next World Cup, of being unfit currently to stage any sporting event. “At this moment in time, I can’t see how any events can take place there until the trust is reestablished. Russia is a great sporting nation. I think it’s lost its greatness. It needs to get it back.”
Russian medal: Vitalina Batsarashkina (left) won silver in the 10m air pistol