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23 Aug, 2016 10:04

CAS upholds blanket ban on Russian Paralympic team imposed by IPC

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has rejected an appeal of a decision to bar all Russian athletes from the Rio Paralympic Games, set to take place September 7-18, which was filed by the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC).

The International Paralympic Committee “did not violate any procedural rule” when banning the Russian team two weeks ago, the CAS judges ruled.

The Russian appeal “did not file any evidence contradicting the facts on which the IPC decision was based,” the CAS panel stated.

Russian Paralympic athletes have also been stripped of the right to file personal appeals with CAS, Russia’s R-Sport news agency cites the IPC as saying.

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven said “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.”

“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.

In upholding the IPC’s imposition of a blanket ban on Russia’s Paralympic team, the CAS has made a politically-motivated decision, rather than a judicial ruling, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said, in commenting on the CAS’s judgment.

“The ruling falls out of the legal framework: it is more political than judicial. There were no grounds to reject [the appeal]; but that’s what happened,” Mutko said.

With the CAS panel’s decision now made, the IPC is now going to address International Federations to redistribute the 267 slots taken away from Russian athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The initial decision to suspend the Russian Paralympic Committee was taken unanimously by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on August 7. The extraordinary measure led to the instant revocation of “all rights and privileges of IPC membership” of the RPC, including its right to enter athletes in competitions held under the aegis of the IPC.

The president of the IPC, Sir Philip Craven, said that the move had been made “in the best interests of the Paralympic Movement,” while acknowledging that the controversial decision had “placed a huge burden upon our [the International Paralympic Committee] shoulders.”

In justifying the ban, he referred to the McLaren report on doping at the Sochi Winter Olympics which stated that 35 samples of Russian Paralympians had allegedly been tampered with by Russian sports authorities. In the weeks following the report’s publication, the IPC forwarded additional inquiries to a team of investigators and received another 10 samples of nine athletes believed to be a part of the “scheme”. 

However, only 27 of the athletes compete in Paralympic sports, and only nine of the disciplines they compete in are held in summer. Although the names of the athletes have not been released to the public, the IPC identified all but one of the athletes at the time of the decision.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Paralympians has never been suspected of a foul play, let alone caught cheating, the ban extends to the entire Russian team of 267 athletes who qualified to compete in 18 sports in Rio.

READ MORE: Russia’s Paralympic team’s reinstatement petition passes 100,000 in just 3 days 

The decision to indiscriminately bar Russian athletes from competing in Paralympic Games in Rio led to the creation of a petition on the Change.org website, which urged Craven to review the IPC’s decision to impose a collective punishment and allow clean athletes to compete.

“We believe that the decision to ban the Paralympic sportsmen from competition and enforcing on them collective responsibility for crimes they have not committed is against the basic principles of international law and European values,” reads the petition, which has garnered the support of over 260,000 people so far.