Updated Mar 3, 2022 - Sports

Russia and Belarus athletes banned from Paralympics after backlash

A general view of athletes warming up during a Russian Paralympic Committee Para Ice Hockey training session at National Indoor Stadium on March 03, 2022 in Beijing, China.

An athlete warms up during a Russian Paralympic Committee Para Ice Hockey training session at National Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Russian and Belarusian athletes will be banned from competing in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, after the International Paralympic Committee reversed its original decision.

Why it matters: The IPC made clear in its statement Thursday that it faced boycott threats from some member nations after saying a day earlier that athletes from Russia and Belarus could compete at the Beijing Paralympics, but not as representatives of their countries.

  • Under the original decision in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Paralympians were to compete under the neutral Paralympic flag.
  • The Games' opening ceremony will be held this Friday.

Flashback: Several national governing bodies had called for a complete ban on international sporting participation for Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials before the Beijing Paralympics, including the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

What they're saying: IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement that 83 Paralympians would not be able to compete in Beijing due to the Paralympics governing body's decision, but he added other nations would "likely withdraw" if they had remained.

  • "At the IPC we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix," he said. "However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many Governments are having an influence on our cherished event."
  • Parsons said the IPC was "looking at the long-term health and survival of the Paralympic Movement" when it decided that Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) and Belarusian Paralympic Committee (BPC) athletes could take part in Beijing.
  • "However, what is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games," he added.

The bottom line: Parsons said "an overwhelming number of members" had contacted the IPC in the 12 hours following its decision to allow the RPC and BPC athletes to compete.

  • "They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences" for the Beijing Paralympics, he said.
  • "Multiple" governing bodies, "some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete," Parsons added.

Go deeper: The latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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