With less than a week to go until the start of the Paralympics 2016, Russia has lost its final appeal to allow its athletes to take part. So what does the decision mean and how is it likely to affect the British competitors heading to Rio for the Games?
Paralympics 2016 – The Background to Russia’s Ban
In July 2016, a new report was published, claiming that the Russian government, together with the country’s sporting organisations, had been involved in concealing doping activities carried out by athletes from the latter part of 2011 until August 2015.
This included covering up doping which took place immediately prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games and during three other major sporting events:
- the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow
- the 2013 World University Games in Kazan
- the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The Maclaren Report – named after the lead reviewer, Professor Richard Maclaren – was produced as the result of an investigation commissioned by Wada (the World Anti-Doping Agency).
Wada recommended that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should ban all Russian competitors from taking part in Rio 2016. In the end, however, the IOC only issued a blanket ban on Russian athletes competing in the athletics and weightlifting events. More than two-thirds of the Russian sportsmen and women originally entered in the Games were therefore allowed to participate.
When it came to the 2016 Paralympics, however, the governing body, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) took a harder line, banning all Russian athletes from competing. Russia appealed, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) upheld the IPC’s decision.
Russian lawyers then took their case to the Swiss Supreme Court, the final body to which they could appeal. However, on Wednesday 31 August, not only did the tribunal dismiss their case, it also ruled that the affected athletes could not apply to have their cases dealt with on an individual basis.
This means that some of the leading names in para sports, such as Denis Tarasov, the swimmer, who won five gold medals at London 2012, and Margarita Goncharova, a triple gold medallist in the track and field events, will not be able to take part in the this year’s Games.
What Does This Mean for Team GB?
Russia was one of the nations that could have been a real threat to British medal prospects, had its athletes have been cleared to compete. The Russian team won 102 medals during the London 2012 Paralympics (36 golds, 38 silvers and 28 bronzes), finishing second on the table behind China.
The Russians won medals in ten of the twelve sporting disciplines included in the Games, but their biggest successes came in athletics, in which they achieved 36 podium positions, and swimming, where they put in 42 medal-winning performances. Both of these disciplines were also areas in which Great Britain’s athletes excelled.
Team GB, who finished in third place overall, with 120 medals, claimed 11 golds, 7 silvers and 11 bronzes in the track and field events, and 7 golds, 16 silvers and 16 bronzes in the pool. Therefore, Russia’s absence from this year’s Games could give them the opportunity to upgrade some of these medals and achieve even more impressive results.
What’s Happening to Russia’s Paralympics 2016 Places?
The IPC has redistributed the 267 places originally reserved for Russian athletes to the other competing nations, resulting in seven Team GB athletes receiving late call-ups for the Games: Gemma Collis (wheelchair fencing); Crystal Lane, Craig Maclean and James Ball (cycling); Tim Jeffrey (shooting); Natalie Greenhough (Judo); and Ashley Facey-Thompson (table tennis).
Of course, the Brits won’t be the only competitors hoping that the Russians’ absence will give their medal prospects a boost. They aren’t the only team to have received extra places either. The USA, for example, was awarded 22 additional spots and will be keen to improve on their sixth place finish in 2012.
Hopes were already high that Team GB could capitalise on the success they had four years ago, however, particularly as the British athletes competing in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics last month exceeded their targets, coming home with 27 golds, 23 silvers and 17 bronzes; their largest ever haul from a Games held overseas. Russia’s absence certainly won’t do the Brits’ chances of success at the Paralympics 2016 any harm.
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