Russia will not be represented at the upcoming Paralympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, over doping records of the country’s athletes in the past, but certain Russians will be allowed to compete at the games as neutral.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said Monday that 169 Russian athletes had been invited to compete in the Pyeongchang games, which take place on March 9-18, but the Russia team will have no presence.
IPC president Andrew Parsons said the body had allowed certain individual athletes to come to the games after it became clear that Russian authorities had made significant progress in tackling doping practices among athletes.
“Although the (Russian Paralympic Committee) remains suspended, they have made significant progress and we have to recognize this,” said Parsons, adding, “We are not rewarding Russia but we are allowing athletes that we believe are clean to compete under a neutral flag.”
Parsons said the IPC was convinced that some “behavioral and cultural changes” had taken place in Russia’s way of dealing with doping.
“We now have greater confidence that the anti-doping system in Russia is no longer compromised and corrupted,” he said, adding that every Russian athlete who was not implicated “knowingly or unknowingly by the numerous anti-doping investigations in Russia” could take part in the Pyeongchang games.
The Russian team took part in the Paralympics games on their home turf in Sochi in 2014, but it did not compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics after its Paralympic committee was suspended. Dozens of Russians were banned from competing at the Rio Olympics for the same reason.
The IPC allowed Russians to compete as neutral in some qualifying events before the Pyeongchang games and the athletes will be part of the team of “Neutral Paralympic Athletes” competing in Alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboard and curling. However, Russians will not contest hockey as a final decision came too late for them to qualify.
Russia’s neutral athletes will wear uniforms without any national insignia while fans will not be able to wave Russian flags.