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Russia’s doping ban from Paralympics ends, with conditions

March 15, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s 2½-year suspension from the Paralympics was lifted Friday, though the country’s athletes face extra doping tests ahead of next year’s games in Tokyo.

The International Paralympic Committee also put Russia on probation through 2022. Conditions include extra drug testing before competitions — with Russia footing the bill — and a ban on government officials serving on the Russian Paralympic Committee.

“We are looking forward to welcoming the RPC back as an IPC member,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said. “The organization should be under no illusions, however, that should it at any stage not meet the post-reinstatement criteria, the IPC governing board can reconsider its membership status. This could include the IPC revoking the conditional reinstatement.”

Parsons added the probation period is needed because Russia “disappointingly” hadn’t done enough to admit and atone for previous doping and cover-ups.

Russia faces a total bill of more than $1 million, including $125,000 a year for extra drug testing in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Athletes in all but one of 27 Paralympic sports will need to show they’ve been tested in the six months before entering key IPC events, including Paralympic qualifiers. Powerlifting is rated the highest-risk sport, with three prior tests required.

The Russian Paralympic Committee accepted the probation conditions, saying they “do not go beyond” measures it’s already taken to earn reinstatement.

Russia was barred from the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro after the IPC found a “medals over morals mentality” led to widespread cheating.

Documents from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory published as part of a 2016 World Anti-Doping Agency inquiry showed staff discussing how to cover up for disabled athletes who tested positive and suggested some blind athletes may have been given banned substances by coaches without their knowledge. However, no Russian athlete has faced individual doping charges related to the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

The IPC first softened its Russia stance when 30 athletes from the country were allowed to enter as Neutral Paralympic Athletes for last year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The IPC ruled in January that Russia had reformed enough to lift the ban, but only after dropping its demand for Russian authorities to admit earlier doping-related wrongdoing.

At the time, Parsons said there was a stalemate because Russia would “most probably never accept” a report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren. He found in 2016 there was widespread doping involving a cover-up by sports ministry officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country never encouraged or covered up doping.

Documents from Moscow’s anti-doping lab revealed in McLaren’s investigation showed that failed doping tests were covered up for athletes across numerous sports, including some with disabilities.

Track and field is the only sport still with a doping ban on the country, though it allows dozens of certified Russians to compete as neutral athletes.

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