Good afternoon everyone,
After what Sir Philip has said there, I just wanted to give you an athlete viewpoint as Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council.
The IPC Athletes’ Council is the collective voice of Para athletes within the IPC and greater Paralympic Movement, so we effectively act as a sounding board between the views of the athletes and the IPC.
In recent weeks, from speaking to athletes, responding to their emails and seeing their posts on social media, the topic of Russian doping has dominated their thoughts whilst they prepare for next month’s Paralympic Games.
Although there are a few differing views, there is one subject that all athletes are united on.
Without doubt, all athletes are in agreement that when they compete for a Paralympic medal, they should do so by taking to a level playing field. They do not want to line-up and have to question whether their main rival is a doper or not.
Fair competition and a level playing field can only be achieved if everyone complies and abides by the rules. The evidence that has been pulled together shows that within the current doping system in Russian sport, the Russian Paralympic Committee is unable to comply and abide by the rules when it comes to the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code.
At the IPC Athletes’ Council we are committed to protecting clean athletes, their health and their well-being. Sadly, the State-sponsored doping system that is currently in place in Russia is emphatically failing them, putting everything at risk.
The facts we have horrify me. Athletes appear to be pawns in a broken and corrupt system designed to show global prowess. Because of the Russian government’s desire to seek an unfair competitive advantage, their athletes will now miss out on the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage of all.
As a five-time Paralympian in ice sledge hockey, I can only imagine the disappointment Russian athletes must feel at this decision. However, it is a decision that has had to be taken in the best interests of ensuring a fair and level playing field for all.
At the same time as feeling great sympathy towards Russian athletes, we must not forget the feelings of those athletes from other nations who competed at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Now that is has been revealed that the sample swamping regime in the Sochi Laboratory also took place at the Paralympic Winter Games, some athletes may be questioning whether results from Sochi 2014 will change.
My message to them is please be patient. As you can imagine, the IPC has had a lot to deal with in recent weeks and the Rio Paralympics are just 31 days away. The IPC is planning to send every Russian sample from Sochi for further forensic examination. At the same time, they are consulting the IPC Anti-Doping Committee and WADA regarding what measures can be taken to address the athletes associated with these samples, including results management. These are unprecedented circumstances for sport.
Finally, Paralympic sport has always been about the true spirit of sport and fair play for all. It has never been about circumnavigating the rules at all costs and it never should be. You really do need to think about the whole team, if you ever decide to play outside the rules.