IPC Approves Neutral Russian Athlete Qualification

(ATR) Russian Paralympians can attempt to qualify but competing under Russian flag at PyeongChang 2018 is still a question.

(ATR) The International Paralympic Committee believes allowing Russian athletes the ability to qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics will provide enough incentive for Russia to correct its doping flaws.

The IPC has opened the door for Russians to qualify as neutral athletes in four of the six Winter Paralympic sports featured in the upcoming Games next March: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing and snowboard.

The qualification period for para ice hockey has already passed and wheelchair curling is a team sport which would inherently prohibit a team of neutral athletes.

However, even if Russian athletes qualify for their respective events, the Russian Paralympic Committee must still be reinstated by the IPC to allow these athletes to compete in PyeongChang.

The IPC Governing Board will review the suspension once more following the World Anti-Doping Agency Foundation Board meeting in November where WADA is expected to issue an updated statement on the status of Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency and its efforts to be reinstated into the anti-doping community.

At the ongoing IPC Conference and General Assembly in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, IPC president Philip Craven updated leaders of the Paralympic Movement on the conditions Russia must meet before it is welcomed back to Paralympic competition.

Craven believes five of the remaining seven requirements can be met by November, including: finalization of RPC anti-doping rules, approval of RPC’s new constitution, budget completion, confirmation of personnel and governance of the RPC and approval of the composition of the RPC board.

Craven noted that the two significant hurdles for Russia’s reinstatement are that WADA reinstates RUSADA and Russian officials provide a response "specifically and adequately addressing" the findings of Richard McLaren in his WADA-backed investigation of Russia’s doping crisis.

"The remaining two criteria - the full reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the acknowledgment and acceptance of the McLaren Report - are interlinked and now extremely critical," Craven said in a statement.

Craven says that the progress made by Russia since its suspension ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympics is inspiring and has fueled the decision to allow Russian athletes to potentially qualify for PyeongChang 2018.

"We do not want to have a situation where Russian athletes have insufficient events left to qualify for PyeongChang 2018 should the RPC meet the reinstatement criteria," Craven said.

"With immediate effect, Russian athletes can compete as neutrals in PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic qualification events providing they meet a number of key conditions that we have published. Then, if the RPC has its suspension lifted in time by meeting all the reinstatement criteria, qualified athletes will be allowed to compete at the Games.

"In my view there can be no greater incentive than this for the RPC to meet the remaining seven reinstatement criteria," he concluded.

Written by Kevin Nutley

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