Will Russia be Banned from Paralympics?

On Friday 4th March the Winter Paralympics are due to get underway in Beijing. In an unprecedented move the International Olympic Committee is calling on sports federations and event organisers to ban all athletes and officials from Russia & Belarus from international sporting events. UPDATED

The International Paralympic Committee meets on Wednesday to discuss Russia, with the Winter Paralympics set to start two days later.

The British Paralympic committee has called for Russia and Belarus athletes and officials to be kicked out of the Games.

The British Olympic Association, along with the National Olympic Committee of Germany, has demanded the immediate exclusion of Russia and Belarus from international sport.

The IOC said in its recommendations that wherever it was not possible to ban them from competing for organisational or legal reasons, such athletes should not compete under the name Russia or Belarus and should be classed as neutrals.

The Russian Olympic Committee has disagreed with the IOC, saying the decision “contradicts both the regulatory documents of the IOC and the Olympic Charter”.

The decision was made by the IOC’s Executive Board, which had already strongly condemned Russia and its neighbour Belarus for supporting the invasion.

One of the first to respond was football’s world governing body, FIFA, which suspended Russia until further notice.

The European governing body, UEFA, followed suit, banning all Russian clubs from matches.

The IOC said it had made its decision to call for a ban on the athletes and officials from all international sporting events “with a heavy heart”.

“The Olympic Movement is united in its mission to contribute to peace through sport and to unite the world in peaceful competition beyond all political disputes,” a statement said.

Beijing 2022

Beijing 2022. Image c/o IOC.

“The Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cups and many other sports events unite athletes of countries which are in confrontation and sometimes even war.

“At the same time, the Olympic Movement is united in its sense of fairness not to punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them. We are committed to fair competitions for everybody without any discrimination.

“The current war in Ukraine, however, puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma. While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.

“This is a dilemma which cannot be solved.”

The IOC now says that, to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and the safety of all participicants, it recommends that international sports federations and event organisers “not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarussian athletes and officials in international competitions”.

In extreme circumstances, if this isn’t possible for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC says everything should be done to ensure no athletes or officials take part under the name of Russia or Belarus but instead are accepted as neutrals.

No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be used.

It remains unclear what this will mean for the 2022 Winter Paralympics which begin on Friday 4th March.

The IOC statement says simply that it has “reiterated its full support for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the Games”.

“Given the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine we cannot see how the participation of Russia or Belarus in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games is compatible with the objectives of the Paralympic movement,” the British Paralympic Association said in a statement issued on Monday afternoon.

“The safety and wellbeing of our athletes and team is our primary concern. We await the decision of the IPC on Wednesday before commenting further.”

Last Friday, the International Ski Federation, FIS, announced it was cancelling all remaining World Cup snowsports competitions due to be held in Russia.

It did not, however, ban Russian snowsports athletes or officials from taking part in international events.

Norway, which topped the medals table at the Beijing Winter Olympics, followed up with a call for a ban on Russians.

The International Olympic Commitee has also withdrawn the Olympic Order from the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak.

“The IOC EB welcomes and appreciates the many calls for peace by athletes, sports officials and members of the worldwide Olympic Community. The IOC admires and supports in particular the calls for peace by Russian athletes,” it adds.

“The IOC EB reaffirms its full solidarity with the Ukrainian Olympic Community. They are in our hearts and thoughts. The IOC EB commits to continue and strengthen its efforts for humanitarian assistance.”

The IOC has set up a solidarity fund and says it is continuing to monitor the situation closely.