International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Sir Philip Craven declared “it is not a day for celebration” despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport upholding Russia’s exclusion from the Rio Paralympic Games.
The Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) challenged its suspension, which was imposed by the IPC on August 7 in the wake of a damning report into the country’s state-run doping programme.
However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) found that the decision was justified, meaning Russia will not be represented in the upcoming Games at Rio 2016.
CAS said in a statement: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport has dismissed the appeal filed by the Russian Paralympic Committee against the decision rendered by governing board of the International Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016. As a consequence, the IPC decision is confirmed.”
Craven, who had described a “medals over morals mentality that disgusts me” and “the complete corruption of the anti-doping system” when he initially announced that the entire Russian team would be banned from the Paralympics, admitted that he had sympathy for any clean Russian athletes who would be excluded from the Games, which runs from September 7-18.
“We are greatly encouraged that the CAS Panel has upheld the IPC Governing Board’s unanimous decision to hold the Russian Paralympic Committee accountable for its membership responsibilities and obligations,” Craven said in an IPC statement.
“Today’s decision underlines our strong belief that doping has absolutely no place in Paralympic sport, and further improves our ability to ensure fair competition and a level playing field for all Para athletes around the world.
“Although we are pleased with the decision, it is not a day for celebration and we have enormous sympathy for the Russian athletes who will now miss out on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“It is a sad day for the Paralympic movement, but we hope also a new beginning. We hope this decision acts as a catalyst for change in Russia and we can welcome the Russian Paralympic Committee back as a member safe in the knowledge that it is fulfilling its obligations to ensure fair competition for all.”
The CAS ruling found that the RPC had failed to provide any evidence which challenged the facts of the initial decision.
The CAS statement continued: “Following revelations related to the doping system in Russia, the IPC governing board suspended the RPC from IPC membership due to its alleged inability to fulfil its responsibilities and obligations to comply with the IPC anti-doping code and the world anti-doping code.
“The CAS panel in charge of this matter found that the IPC did not violate any procedural rule in dealing with the disciplinary process leading to the RPC’s suspension and that the decision to ban the RPC was made in accordance with the IPC rules and was proportionate in the circumstances.
“The panel also noted that the RPC did not file any evidence contradicting the facts on which the IPC decision was based.”
Craven’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) counterpart Thomas Bach decided against such a tough stance, describing it as “the nuclear option”, and Russia were able to send 278 athletes to Brazil for the Olympics after individual federations were left to rule on eligibility.
The Paralympics’ later start date also gave the IPC more time than the IOC to digest Richard McLaren’s landmark report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
McLaren was able to reveal even more cases from Paralympic sport than he listed in his preliminary report, and once the IPC had examined the Canadian’s evidence, it was able to see that positive drug tests by 11 Russian athletes were covered up by the Moscow anti-doping laboratory at the behest of the Russian ministry of sport between 2012-15.
A further 18 samples were tampered with at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, where Russia won almost half of the gold medals on offer.
Craven said McLaren had made it clear that more cases are likely to be unearthed, prompting the IPC to reanalyse every sample from a Russian athlete at the Sochi Games.
“The IPC Governing Board’s decision was taken with the best interests of the Paralympic movement at heart, as was the IOC’s ruling for the Olympic movement which I supported as an IOC member during the IOC session,” Craven added.
“As an autonomous organisation with a different governance structure to the IOC, the IPC’s decision was based on the fact that there is one sole IPC member in Russia responsible for both winter and summer Para sport.
“Following this decision, our full focus is on sport and working with our partners to deliver a successful Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Beyond Rio 2016, we will work with the World Anti-Doping Agency to establish the criteria the Russian Paralympic Committee needs to meet in order to fulfil all its membership obligations and have its suspension lifted.”
Press Association Sport