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IPC bans Russia, Belarus Paralympic committees

Russia Paralympic Flag

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MARCH 07: The Paralympic flag flies next to the Russia flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

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Russia and Belarus’ Paralympic committees were banned by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), likely into next fall.

Russia and Belarus cannot enter athletes into World Para Sport events during the suspension. The IPC has not said whether Russia and Belarus athletes could compete separate from their national committees, such as neutral competitors, if and when any other suspension for the war in Ukraine is lifted.

The IPC said that the eligibility of Russia and Belarus for the 2024 Paris Paralympics is a decision for the next general assembly, likely in the fourth quarter of 2023.

At an extraordinary general assembly Wednesday, IPC members voted to suspend Russia and Belarus’ Paralympic committees for the same reason: “due to its inability to comply with membership obligations under the IPC Constitution.”

The vote for Russia was 64 to 39 with 16 abstentions. The vote for Belarus was 54 to 45 with 18 abstentions.

“I want us to live in a world where sport unites the world in peaceful competition, enabling athletes to compete against their rivals to the best of their abilities in a safe and secure environment,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said. “The situation that the world of sport faces right now is highly charged and complex. I hope and pray that the conflict in Ukraine ends as soon as possible, that peace is secured, and that no more innocent lives are lost or impacted.”

They can appeal. Barring a successful appeal, the suspensions can only be lifted at an IPC general assembly, the next slated for late 2023.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were barred from last March’s Paralympic Winter Games the day before the Opening Ceremony in a reversal from a decision 20 hours earlier that would have allowed Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals without their national flags, symbols and anthems.

The reasoning was that ensuring safety at the athletes’ village was becoming untenable, and athletes from many other nations vowed to not compete if Russia and Belarus athletes remained in the Games.

Russia invaded Ukraine the week before those Paralympics began.

Russian athletes competed at the Tokyo Paralympics under the Russian Paralympic Committee flag and without the national anthem as part of sanctions for the nation’s doping violations. They finished third in total medals, behind China and Great Britain and ahead of the U.S.

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