The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has elected to maintain its suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC).
The global governing body will reconvene in late January to make a final decision on whether Russia can compete at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
During a meeting of the IPC Governing Board on Tuesday, it was also decided to keep in place an interim measure to allow Russian athletes that are clean to compete as neutrals in qualification events across four winter sports - alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. The measure was first introduced in September to preserve the ability of the RPC to enter its qualified athletes into PyeongChang 2018 should its suspension be lifted in time.
The IPC taskforce responsible for monitoring the RPC’s progress has said that there are five key criteria that still need to be met before it can recommend lifting the suspension to the IPC Governing Board. The IPC is still seeking the full reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and provision of an official response specifically and adequately addressing the findings made by Professor Richard McLaren.
The suspension followed a doping scandal which was uncovered in the build-up to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, where the country was banned from competing by the IPC, which cited the RPC’s inability to fulfil responsibilities and obligations to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code. Russia avoided a blanket ban from those Olympics, however, and some athletes were cleared to compete.
Andrew Parsons, the recently installed IPC president, said: “Although the IPC Governing Board continues to be impressed at the level of cooperation and progress made so far by the RPC, it is united in its decision to maintain the suspension as the reinstatement criteria have not yet been met in full.
“The RPC is making headway with the IPC on three of the five remaining reinstatement criteria, however sadly, and much to our growing disappointment and frustration, there is a lack of progress regarding an official response from the Russian authorities specifically and adequately addressing the McLaren findings and evidence.
“Since last December’s second McLaren report yet more evidence has come to light to support and add weight to his findings. If the Russian authorities believe his findings and evidence are not credible, then suitable supporting evidence and explanations should be provided to properly rebut them. So far nothing has been forthcoming.
“As the deadline for athlete entries for PyeongChang 2018 is 23rd February, the IPC Governing Board’s next meeting between 26th and 28th January really is the last chance for Russia to meet the criteria in time for the Games.”
The announcement follows the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to ban the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) from PyeongChang 2018, although the body ruled that clean athletes from Russia will still be able to compete under a neutral flag.