Russia has been told it has until early September to implement a range of anti-doping reforms or it will be “very difficult” for its athletes to compete in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics.
The warning came from Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, who also admitted that, unless “something dramatically changes”, Russian track and field stars would also miss out on the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in July.
Craven said: “With 291 days to go until PyeongChang 2018, there is not a moment to waste. The IPC taskforce will next update the IPC governing board in September and, if the obligations have not been fully met by then, it will be very difficult for the Russian Paralympic Committee to have its suspension lifted in time to enter its athletes into the Paralympic Winter Games.
“Clearly, with this timeline in mind, unless something dramatic changes in the next few weeks, Russia will not be able to enter its athletes into the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.”
Russia topped the 2014 Winter Paralympics medal table with 80 medals – 55 ahead of their nearest rivals, Ukraine. However, it has been suspended from all IPC-organised events, including the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, after a report by Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence it had manipulated its testing programme to hide positive doping results, including at Sochi.
There was a glimpse of light from Andy Parkinson, the chair of the IPC taskforce, who said that Russia had made some progress, despite several key criteria not being met. Yet he also warned that much more needed to be done.
“The evidence is quite clear: the problems identified were far beyond individual athlete violations and a doping system that was not strong enough to catch those athletes,” Parkinson said. “Instead the system itself and the institutions that support this system were operating with the objective of circumventing the very rules the system was responsible to uphold.
“Unless and until these problems are fully addressed, the taskforce is of the view there can be no meaningful change in culture and it would be almost impossible for Russian Para athletes to return to IPC-sanctioned competitions without jeopardising the integrity of those competitions.
“The issue of access to Para athletes in closed cities has been a problem for many years and still remains unresolved. Finally, the issue of the reinstatement by Wada of Rusada remains a key criterion for the RPC’s reinstatement.”