The International Paralympic Committee has banned the Russian Paralympic team from the upcoming 2016 Games following a revelation of widespread doping among Russian athletes.
The doping scandal was revealed in a report by Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer. The report unveiled systematic cover-up of cheating by Russian athletes in the past several years, including the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Paralympics. According to The Guardian, McLaren found “35 ‘disappearing positive’ Russian drug tests across Paralympic sport between 2012 and 2015, [and] the report confirmed the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, where Russia won three times as many medals as any other country, was compromised by swapped samples.”
Describing the reasoning behind the blanket ban, Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said in a news conference, “The Russian Paralympic Committee are unable to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the IPC anti-doping code and the world anti-doping code within their won national jurisdictions and they cannot fulfil its fundamental obligation as an IPC member. As a result, the Russian Paralympic Committee is suspended with immediate effect…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. The Russian government has catastrophically failed its para-athletes.”
The ban comes in contrast to the actions of the International Olympic Committee in response to the same doping report. The IOC has banned about 120 Russian athletes while allowing about 270 to compete. In comparison, 267 Russian athletes will no longer be competing in the Paralympic Games.
The Russian Paralympic Committee plans on appealing the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Evgeniy Bukharov, a member of the Russian Paralympic Committee stated, “I’m disappointed and really shocked. The IOC decided to stay for the rights of the clean athletes and only to fight against the athletes who are involved in doping. I spoke with my team-mates from the organising committee and saw the reaction of the Russian Paralympic team, the athletes and coaches. They are very frustrated with this decision. If someone over four years tries to do their best to participate in the Games, suddenly to hear that they should not participate frustrated them,” according to the BBC.
The British Paralympic Association, on the other hand, has endorsed the IPC’s decision, saying, “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.”
Several Russian athletes were favored to win medals in the Paralympic Games, stated the BBC, including Margarita Goncharova, Evgenii Shvetsov, Olesya Vladykina, Valeriia Shabalina, and Darya Stukalova. The absence of the Russian team, which collectively took home 102 medals in the 2012 London Paralympics, could have a major impact at the 2016 Paralympic Games. The Rio Paralympic Games are scheduled to begin on September 7.