VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — World sports’ highest court of appeal has upheld a ban barring Russia entirely from next month’s Paralympics in Rio, maintaining an unprecedented punishment for the country’s state-supported efforts to conceal doping by its athletes.
The Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS), based in Lausanne, Switzerland, issued a statement saying the court had confirmed the decision by the International Paralympics Committee to keep Russian Paralympians suspended from the event because of Russia’s failure to meet its anti-doping obligations.
The International Paralympics Committee (IPC) imposed the ban in July after an investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency found new proof that Russia’s sports ministry, aided by the country’s F.S.B. security service, had created a system for concealing doping by its athletes across virtually every Olympic discipline and several Paralympic.
At the time, the IPC’s president, Sir Philip Craven, said Russia had “catastrophically failed” its Paralympians and said he was “disgusted” by what he called Russia’s “medals over morals mentality.”
In Tuesday’s statement, the court said it found the IPC decision was “proportionate” and did not violate any procedural rules. The court also said it had not found any evidence contradicting the facts on which the decision was based.
Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko denounced the ruling, saying it was “more political than judicial.” “There is no reason at all for the refusal, but it’s happened,” the Russian state news agency TASS quoted Mutko as saying.
The IPC’s president, Crave, said he welcomed the ruling: “Today’s 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.”
Russia’s entire Olympic track and field team had already missed the Olympic Games in Rio, after it was barred over the same doping cover up. At one stage, it had appeared that Russia would also be entirely banned from the Olympics, after WADA recommended the International Olympic Committee ban all Russian athletes over the doping scheme.
But the IOC eventually controversially chose to allow some Russian athletes to take part provided they passed a vetting process.
Eventually, 278 Russian athletes travelled to Rio for the Olympics, which wrapped up Sunday, with Russia winning fourth place in the overall medal table, taking home 56 medals.
This is the first time a country has been barred entirely from the Paralympics over doping. The ruling follows a months-long saga that saw an avalanche of allegations fall on Russia that it had sought to conceal doping among dozens of its athletes over many years, including by medal winners.
The WADA investigation by professor Richard McLaren in July found that Russia had established a “fail-safe system” that allowed it to pre-screen doping tests by its athletes and to then make selected positive samples disappear. McLaren’s report was based on evidence from the man who once ran the cover-up system, ex-director of Moscow’s anti-doping lab, Grigory Rodchenkov, and found that Russia had used the system on dozens of athletes, including the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Those findings built on evidence from earlier WADA reports and claims made BY other whistleblowers to investigative journalists that Russia was allowing doping on an industrial scale.
Following McLaren’s report, the International Paralympics Committee said it had found at least 27 occasions when samples of Russian Paralympians had been interfered with across eight disciplines. The committee said at least 11 of these samples had been concealed.
But these figures were a fraction of the hundreds of samples that were found to have been interfered with among Russia’s Olympics teams, the majority of which were eventually allowed to compete.
Before Tuesday’s ruling, some had called for Russian Paralympians to be allowed to participate in Rio. The respected Russian investigative paper Novaya Gazeta, known normally for its highly critical coverage of the Kremlin, issued an appeal for an international campaign for Russia’s Paralympians to take part.
The IPC president, Craven, although welcoming the ruling, said Tuesday it was still not a cause for happiness but noted he believed a ban was necessary:
“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 2016 Paralympic Games.”
“It is a sad day for the Paralympic Movement, but we hope also a new beginning,” Craven said in the statement. “We hope this decision acts as a catalyst for change in Russia and we can welcome the Russian Paralympic Committee back as a member safe in the knowledge that it is fulfilling its obligations to ensure fair competition for all.”
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