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Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete as neutrals at Paralympics

beijing 2022 winter paralympics torch relay
Participants light up the cauldron during the flame gathering and torch relay starting ceremony at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing

Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete as neutrals at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said on Wednesday, despite calls to ban them following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for which Belarus has been a key staging area.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week recommended that sports federations suspend teams and athletes from the two countries but added that they could compete as neutrals if time or legal constraints prevented their removal.

“They will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table,” the IPC said in a statement.

“In deciding what action to take, the Board was guided by the IPC’s core principles, which include a commitment to political neutrality and impartiality, and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of sport.

“These are key components of the new IPC Constitution that was approved at the 2021 IPC General Assembly held just over three months ago.”

Russian athletes were already set to compete under the Russian Paralympic Committee banner as part of sanctions imposed for a state-sponsored doping programme.

The IPC added they would not host any events in Russia and Belarus, including World and European Championships, until further notice and urged other international and regional para federations to follow a similar approach.

A number of sports federations, including world soccer governing body FIFA and European soccer governing body UEFA, have banned teams and athletes from the two countries, and also stripped them of key events such as this season’s Champions League final.

“Given the time constraints… the IPC Governing Board will reconvene after the Games to further discuss this matter and any additional action that may be required,” the statement added.

The 20-member Ukrainian contingent, accompanied by nine guides, arrived in Beijing on Wednesday following initial fears they may not be able to make it in time for the Games, which run from March 4-13.

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