President of the International Paralympic Committee Andrew Parsons talks at a press conference held by the IPC in Beijing on Wednesday.
The International Paralympic Committee said on Thursday that Russian and Belarussian competitors have been barred from competing in the Winter Paralympic Games due to their countries’ actions in the Ukraine conflict.
The U-turn comes less than 24 hours after the IPC stated on Wednesday that Russian and Belarussian competitors would be allowed to compete when the Games begin on Friday, but only as neutral athletes with no national colours, banners, or other emblems.
The IPC was roundly chastised for its initial ruling. It was described as a betrayal, sending the incorrect message to Russia’s leadership.
Many competitors would refuse to compete against Russians or Belarusians, according to the IPC, causing instability at the Paralympics and harming their reputation.
In a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, IPC President Andrew Parsons expressed unreserved sympathy for the Ukrainian people, but said his actions were limited by his organization’s laws and the threat of legal action.
In announcing his turnaround, Parsons said almost the exact opposite, saying that his constituents had pushed back.
“An overwhelming amount of members have contacted us in the last 12 hours,” Parsons said in a statement. “They’ve told us that if we don’t change our decision, it’ll have serious implications.”
“What is apparent is that the fast rising scenario has now placed us in an unprecedented and difficult position so close to the Games’ start,” Parsons continued.
The IPC has now joined the list of sports that have outright banned Russians and Belarussians, including football, track and field, basketball, hockey, and others.
On Monday, the International Olympic Committee urged sports governing bodies to exclude Russian and Belarussian competitors from international competitions, but it left the final choice to individual governing bodies.
Following a state-sponsored doping crisis and cover-up at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the IOC has been slow to punish Russia, allowing its competitors to compete in the last four Olympics.
In Beijing, Russia was expected to compete with 71 athletes. It was unclear how many Belarussian athletes were involved at the time. Ukraine has stated that it will have twenty.
On Friday, the Winter Paralympics begin and end on March 13. Parsons also addressed the athletes from Russia and Belarus.
“We are very sorry that the decisions your governments made last week in breaching the Olympic truce have hurt you as para athletes from the impacted countries. You are the victims of the activities of your governments.”