Monday 11 December 2017

Russia's Rio exclusion creates 'level playing field'

Craven admitted that he had sympathy for any clean Russian athletes excluded from the Games. Photo: PA
Craven admitted that he had sympathy for any clean Russian athletes excluded from the Games. Photo: PA sportsdesk

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Philip Craven said yesterday was "not a day for celebration" despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upholding Russia's exclusion from the Rio Paralympic Games.

The Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) challenged its suspension, which was imposed by the IPC on August 7 in the wake of a damning report into the country's state-run doping programme.

However, CAS found that the decision was justified, meaning Russia will not be represented in the upcoming Games in Rio.

Craven, who had described a "medals over morals mentality that disgusts me" and "the complete corruption of the anti-doping system" when he initially announced that the entire Russian team would be banned from the Paralympics, admitted that he had sympathy for any clean Russian athletes who would be excluded from the Games, which runs from September 7-18.

"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," Craven said.

"The decision underlines our strong belief that doping has absolutely no place in Paralympic sport, and further improves our ability to ensure fair competition and a level playing field for all Para athletes around the world.

"Although we are pleased with the decision, it is not a day for celebration and we have enormous sympathy for the Russian athletes who will now miss out on the Rio Paralympic Games."

The CAS ruling found that the RPC had failed to provide any evidence which challenged the facts of the initial decision.

Craven's International Olympic Committee (IOC) counterpart Thomas Bach decided against such a tough stance, describing it as "the nuclear option", and Russia were able to send 278 athletes to Brazil for the Olympics after individual federations were left to rule on eligibility.

The Paralympics' later start date also gave the IPC more time than the IOC to digest Richard McLaren's landmark report for the World Anti-Doping Agency.

McLaren was able to reveal even more cases from Paralympic sport than he listed in his preliminary report, and once the IPC had examined the Canadian's evidence, it was able to see that positive drug tests by 11 Russian athletes were covered up by the Moscow anti-doping laboratory at the behest of the Russian ministry of sport between 2012-15.

A further 18 samples were tampered with at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, where Russia won almost half of the gold medals on offer.

Craven said McLaren had made it clear that more cases are likely to be unearthed, prompting the IPC to reanalyse every sample from a Russian athlete at the Sochi Games.

Irish Independent

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