An independent appeals tribunal of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has upheld on technicalities appeals by the National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) of Russia and Belarus against their membership suspensions.
The IPC’s membership voted to suspend the two NPCs at an extraordinary general assembly in November last year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the assistance provided to it by Belarus.
The decision was based on “their inability to comply with their membership obligations under the IPC constitution,” specifically the obligation for members “not to do anything … that is contrary to the purpose or objects of the IPC and/or that risks bringing the IPC, Paralympic movement, or Para sport into disrepute.”
NPC Russia and NPC Belarus appealed their suspensions, and in-person hearings were held with the IPC’s Independent Appeals Tribunal on April 25 and 26.
The tribunal did not rule on the merits of the suspensions but found that supporting evidence provided to it, including information that became available after the bans were enacted, should be considered by the membership.
As such, the full information and evidence will be presented at the IPC’s general assembly in September, although the IPC had already planned for further consideration of the bans at the general assembly. As such, the tribunal ruling changes little other to ensure that the specific evidence and information be presented then.
The IPC’s ban on athlete entries from Russia and Belarus in the world and regional championships and sanctioned-level competitions remains in force.
IPC president Andrew Parsons said: “Following the events that we saw unfold just before the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, our members made it clear that the membership status of NPCs Russia and Belarus needed to be considered by the general assembly.
"We believe that our actions taken to call the 2022 extraordinary general assembly in Berlin and allow every member the chance to present their views on these important matters, fulfilled our obligations under our rules.
“Our Independent Appeals Tribunal decided differently, which is a decision we certainly respect but disagree with. As we already had committed to do, we will bring these matters back to our general assembly later this year, follow the Appeal Tribunal’s directions by presenting the additional evidence we have since acquired, and give our members the opportunity to decide these important matters.”
In April, Parsons admitted his organization’s stance over the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games may differ from that of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Last March, the IOC recommended not including Russian and Belarusian athletes in competitions, while the IPC announced athletes from both nations would be allowed to compete in the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics under a neutral flag.
However, after several National Paralympic Committees threatened to boycott the event, the IPC overturned its decision, and athletes from both nations were excluded from the games.
The IPC then suspended the Russian and Belarusian Paralympic Committees in November, while the IOC recommended this March that athletes from the nations be allowed to participate in international competitions under a neutral flag.
The 2023 IPC general assembly will be held in Bahrain on September 28 and 29.
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