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Russian athletes cannot compete as neutrals – IPC

Paralympic swimmer Alexander Makarov, member of Russia’s Paralympic national team, poses after a training session in the town of Ruza, 100 km west of Moscow, on August 18, 2016 © AFP/File / Vasily Maximov

RIO DE JANEIRO, Sep 2 – Russian athletes seeking to take part individually in the Paralympic Games in order to sidestep a blanket ban will not be allowed to compete under a neutral banner, the International Paralympic Committee ruled.

A statement from the IPC said more than 175 Russian athletes who had applied to compete individually would remain barred from the games, which open on September 7.

The IPC on August 7 announced it was banning Russian competitors from the Paralympic Games following a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report which alleged a vast state-sponsored doping program.

The IPC said Thursday its position had been backed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which had rejected a Russian request to require the body to accept applications from athletes who could show they were “clean.”

“The IPC has considerable sympathy for all of the Russian athletes who are now unable to participate in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games,” IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez said in a statement.

“The main goal of the IPC is to enable Para athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world. Tragically, however, the Russian authorities have denied their athletes this chance through their actions.”

“Once the Russian Paralympic Committee demonstrates that it will be able in the future to enforce the IPC Anti-Doping Code vigorously and effectively, without interference, the IPC will be glad to welcome Russian athletes back to international competition.”

The Paralympic chiefs had taken the decision to impose a blanket ban on Russian competitors following the release of a report commissioned by WADA detailing drug-cheating directed by Moscow government officials and affecting dozens of sports.

An appeal against the ban was dismissed by CAS in Switzerland on August 23, drawing a furious response from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who decried the suspension as “outside the law, morality, humanity.”

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The Paralympics ban was the latest blow to Russian sport, which has been embroiled in a tidal wave 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 the entire track and field team.

Russia continues to deny the findings of the WADA report, including the involvement of the sports ministry and the Russian secret service in doping fraud at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

However IPC chief Philip Craven accused Russia of a “thirst for glory at all costs” which had “severely damaged the integrity and image of all sport.”

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.

Nearly 4,300 athletes from 164 countries took part in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

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