Geneva, Switzerland, Aug 23 – A ban on Russian athletes competing in the Rio Paralympics was upheld Tuesday, triggering anger in Moscow after the country lost an appeal against their exclusion over a vast, state-run doping programme.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed an appeal filed by the Russian Paralympic Committee, which sought to overturn the August 7 ban by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev denounced the doping charges as a ‘thick and very nasty cocktail’ and said the Paralympic ban constituted a ‘cynical’ attempt by rivals to remove strong competitors from the Games.
The IPC took the tough action after the release of a bombshell report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), detailing drug-cheating directed by government officials and affecting dozens of sports.
Citing evidence compiled by WADA lead investigator Richard McLaren, the IPC argued that Russia’s disabled athletes had failed to comply with global anti-doping codes.
The Lausanne-based CAS said Russia in its appeal “did not file any evidence contradicting the facts on which the IPC decision was based.”
In a statement, the court “confirmed” Russia’s ban from the Rio Paralympics, which run from September 7 to 18.
– Traditional enemy –
Medvedev, however, said on Facebook in Russian the decision showed “a number of states and their political and sports establishments were looking for a traditional enemy and found it once again.”
Russian Paralympic Committee president Vladimir Lukin indicated the barred athletes would pursue their case further by filing individual complaints at the European Court of Human Rights.
However IPC president Philip Craven said the decision “underlines our strong belief that doping has absolutely no place in Paralympic sport.”
The ruling was applauded by the president of Germany’s National Paralympic Committee, Friedhelm Julius Beucher.
“The judgement is a sign of consistent zero-tolerance on doping,” he said.
The Paralympics ban was the latest blow to Russian sport, which has been condemned by a mountain of doping allegations in recent months.
The country narrowly escaped an outright International Olympic Committee ban from the just-concluded Rio Games, but still saw dozens of its athletes barred, including almost the entire track and field team.
Russia continues to deny the findings of the McLaren report, including the involvement of the sports ministry and the Russian secret service in doping fraud at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
– ‘Disgusting attitude’ –
While Lukin had sought to portray his athletes as independent from the Moscow government, the IPC said it did not believe that disabled Olympic hopefuls were untouched by the pervasive cheating in the country.
Craven said previously that Russia’s “thirst for glory at all costs has severely damaged the integrity and image of all sport”.
“Their medals over morals attitude disgusts me.”
Dmitry Svishchev, who heads the lower house of Russian parliament’s sports and physical culture committee, told AFP: “I really don’t like this decision.
“I think that it is baseless and cruel. The athletes against whom this decision was taken did not deserve this.”
The Paralympics, held every four years for athletes with disabilities, has taken place in various forms since 1948 but has grown in importance over the past 20 years.
An estimated 250 Russian competitors had been slated to take part in Rio and many had continued training ahead of the CAS decision.
That included 19-year-old backstroke swimmer Alexander Makarov, who suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that limits the limbs’ movements.
He told AFP last week that he was trying “not to think” about being barred from Rio, as he churned through 50 laps during a morning training session outside Moscow.
However, former Russian Paralympian Mikhail Terentyev, a federal lawmaker and member of the Russian Paralympic Committee’s executive board, told R-Sport:
“The IPC’s decision is tragedy for the 267 athletes who had already made the team and went through a crucible and many anti-doping tests.”
Nearly 4,300 athletes from 164 countries took part in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
The 2016 Rio Paralympics will see athletes compete in 23 disciplines over 11 days.