IPC Approves Joint Entrance, Unified Korea Flag at Paralympics

Intl Paralympic Committee maintains suspension of Russia's membership

Russia's team will be suspended from the Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, but individual athletes will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag, the International Paralympics Committee said Monday.

The report, which was published in July 2016, claimed Russian Federation operated a state-sponsored doping programme across both the summer and winter Olympic Games.

"What was uncovered was not a minor breach of an obligation", Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said at a news conference in Bonn, Germany on Monday.

"It is now the view of the IPC Governing Board, which includes six Para athletes, that allowing Russian Para athletes who meet strict criteria to compete in PyeongChang as neutrals will not jeopardize our responsibility to ensure clean sport and a level playing field for all Para athletes".

The team of "Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA)" will have half the number of Russian athletes that competed in Sochi in 2014.

"We will welcome all athletes that are eligible to compete and meet the criteria set out by the IPC".

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The IOC on Saturday approved 169 Russian athletes to participate at February's Olympics as neutrals, including women's figure skating medal favorites Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva. The country was also excluded from the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in 2016. "Russian Para athletes are now regularly tested and are amongst the most scrutinised Para athletes in the world".

"In the summer of 2016 the anti-doping system in Russian Federation was found to be totally compromised, corrupted and open to abuse", IPC President Andrew Parsons said.

Beucher claimed the IPC had been influenced by external pressure to create a way in which Russian athletes can compete. "We have also witnessed behavioral and cultural changes". According to Parsons, this is the reason why the IPC maintains Russia's suspension.

Russians had been allowed to compete as neutral athletes in some qualifying events ahead of the games before a final decision, but that came too late for Russia to qualify in hockey. It said that two key criteria to end the wider suspension were still outstanding - the full reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) by WADA, and an official response adequately addressing the McLaren findings.

The Russian government has repeatedly denied ever supporting any doping programs.

"So the organising committee has measures in place if any other, including the Russian flag, arises in the stand".

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