KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The International Paralympic Committee has dared go where the IOC feared to tread and banned Russia from its Games which run in Rio de Janeiro from September 7-18.
IPC president Sir Philip Craven was corruscating in his attack on the state-sponsored Russian doping-and-cover-up system. The IPC board had engaged in a three-hour debate with the RPC last Wednesday and then reached its own unanimous decision after a further 90-minute discussion.
The Russians have 21 days in which to appeal to the Court of Arbitraton for Sport.
Craven said that the IPC had been enabled to act in a manner beyond the International Olympic Committee because of their different structures; the IPC membership comprised national associations whereas the IOC was made up of individual men and women.
This meant the IPC was similar in structure to the International Association of Athletics federations which had already shown its own teeth in suspending Russia from membership and thus barring its competitors from the Olympics.
Angry and disbelieving Russian athletes and Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko have stated an intention to appeal but their prospects appear slim based on the precedent set by the IAAF. The CAS upheld that body’s right to suspend a member association – and, without IAAF approval, no Russian athletes could compete in Rio.
Craven derided the “medals over morals” philosophy of the Russian authorities who had had entered a 267-strong team for the 18 sports at the Rio Paralympics.
He said: “Tragically this situation is not about athletes cheating a system, but about a state-run system that is cheating the athletes. The doping culture that is polluting Russian sport stems from the Russian government and has now been uncovered in not one, but two independent reports commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.”
Initial allegations about the Russian strategy were revealed by the media in late 2014 which prompted to two investigations and damning reports from Dick Pound and then Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Craven said: “The McLaren Report marked one of the darkest days in the history of all sports” as it “questioned the integrity and credibility of sport as we know it.”
“I believe the Russian government has catastrophically failed its para athletes. Their medals over morals mentality disgusts me. The complete corruption of the anti-doping 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.”
Craven said that, as a member of the IOC, he had had to accept that its own president, Thomas Bach, and the executive board had taken in good faith their own decision not to ban Russia and leave assessment of individual competitors’ doping status up to individual international sports federations.
However the IPC situation had been different. He had been “directly involved with every part of the decision-making process” and his board was “united on all topics that affect the spirit of our sports momements.”
He also said that the latest evidence could make him revise his stated opinion, in Sochi in 2014, that those Paralympic Winter Games had been “the greatest ever.” He added: “On this new evidence maybe I will have to review that remark but it was basedon the evidence to hand at the time.”
Craven also explained that the decision did not take into account the effect on individual clean Russian athletes. It had concerned only the RPC’s inability to adhere to IPC and WADA anti-doping regulations. Any complaints should be levelled not at the IPC but at the Russian authorities who organised a system which had cheated its own athletes.
The issue was far more important than the effect on individual competitors.
Craven said: “This is about intentional covering-up of intentional cheating on a country wide scale. There will be individual athletes that are probably clean but I am afraid that, until the system is changed radically and we can count upon the RPC entering athletes into IPC competitions who are clean, this is not something we can accept.
“It’s so fundamental to what we are about . . . this is far bigger than the athletes who will miss out on Rio 2016.”
He concluded: “What is the underlying principle? It is in fact that, to world sport and now to paralympic sport, there’s a great, great threat to the future of what we would view as the sporting spirit for all.
“That cannot be allowed to change. Fair competition, fair play, abiding by the rules, is fundamental and if we start slacking off on that we are finished. So we are not going to.”
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