Following the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) announcement on Monday (22 May) that it will maintain the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC), the IPC Athletes’ Council has issued the following statement through its Chairperson Chelsey Gotell, a three-time Paralympian and three-time Paralympic champion.
“The IPC Athletes’ Council supports the decision made by the IPC Governing Board to maintain the RPC’s membership suspension which has stood since 7 August 2016.
“At last week’s Governing Board meeting in Barcelona, in my official role as IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson, I represented the voice of the Para athlete community. Sitting alongside five other Paralympians on the Governing Board, I felt the views of athletes were well represented and well understood on what is a very difficult and complex issue for everyone involved.
“As the voice for all Paralympic athletes, it is the responsibility of the IPC Athletes’ Council to ensure that every athlete has the opportunity to compete in a fair and clean sporting environment. If we did not aim to achieve this, then we would be failing the many thousands of Para athletes around the world and the many millions who watch Para sport on a regular basis.
“As the IPC Taskforce reported in its update, although progress has been made by the RPC, fair and clean competition still cannot be assured yet until further changes take place. Therefore the suspension should remain in place.
“As an athlete, when you line-up on the start line or take to the field of play you want to be confident that everyone is competing on a fair and level playing field; you do not want your mind distracted over whether your opponent is doped or not.
“It is also our duty as Paralympians to act as role models and inspire the next generation of athletes. We cannot achieve this if there are suspicions of doping in our Movement.
“We sincerely hope that this situation can be quickly resolved by the RPC fulfilling the reinstatement criteria. They are well aware of what they need to do and sadly the longer they take to achieve it the longer Russian Para athletes will continue to miss out on IPC sanctioned competitions.
“The Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of any Para athlete’s sporting career. Years of hard work, dedication and commitment are rewarded with the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage of all.
“I can only imagine the heartbreak Russian Para athletes felt last year when the RPC was suspended and unable to enter them into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. To miss out on a second Paralympic Games within a 20 month window due to the actions of others is unimaginable but sadly fast becoming a reality unless swift action is taken.
“With PyeongChang 2018 fast approaching, we strongly encourage the RPC to work diligently to ensure the reinstatement criteria are met as soon as possible and, ideally, in time for the next Paralympic Winter Games.
“Looking further ahead, the IPC Athletes’ Council sincerely hopes that this situation is never repeated again and that the IPC’s strong and commendable stance sends out a loud and clear message to all those within the Paralympic Movement.
“We strongly encourage all National Paralympic Committees and International Federations to fulfil their IPC obligations by providing a fully compliant anti-doping programme that ensures athletes are never again put at risk of being excluded from competition due to the actions of others.”