The International Paralympic Committee announced on Thursday that athletes from Russia and Belarus won’t be permitted to compete in the 2022 Winter Paralympics. The ruling comes less than 24 hours after the IPC initially announced that Russian and Belarusian competitors could participate as neutral athletes (similar to how they have done in the past few Olympics) due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week.
The Beijing Paralympics are slated to begin on Friday and run through March 13.
“The war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many governments are having an influence on our cherished event,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said. “We were trying to protect the Games from war.”
Parsons added that the IPC was well aware of the negative reaction that many fans were having as a result of the initial ruling that allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Winter Paralympics. But he revealed that there was also a negative reaction to those Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Athletes Village. That further solidified the IPC’s decision to change the initial ruling and ban the athletes from competing.
“We don’t have reports of any specific incidents of aggression or anything like that,” Parsons added. “But it was a very, very volatile environment in the (Athletes) Village. It was a very rapid escalation which we did not think was going to happen. We did not think that entire delegations, or even teams within delegations, will withdraw, will boycott, will not participate.”
One of the first scenarios of a pushback from other athletes came when the Latvian curling team was slated to face Russia in a group game on Wednesday, but refused to play.
The Russian Paralympics Committee called the decision to ban their athletes it “baseless” and “illegal.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also called the decision a “disgrace.”
Parsons believes that the Russian and Belarusian Paralympics committees may “take legal action” over the decision.
“We do believe that the Russian Paralympic Committee and the Belarussian Paralympic Committee may take legal action,” Parsons said. “But the facts that we express here led us to understand that this was the right decision to be taking.”