'Neutral' Russian Athletes Can Compete in Paralympics, Can't Receive Medals

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has decided to allow Russian athletes to compete, albeit with some restrictions.

In a statement published on Wednesday, the IPC announced that Russian and Belarusian athletes will continue to compete in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. However, they will not represent their countries and are being listed as "neutral athletes" and competing under the general Paralympic banner. The athletes from those nations will also not be included at their medal tables if they win an event.

"IPC to host extraordinary General Assembly in 2022 to vote on whether to make compliance with the Olympic Truce a membership requirement and whether to suspend or terminate the membership of the Russian Paralympic Committee and Belarus Paralympic Committee," said the organization. "IPC will not hold any events in Russia or Belarus until further notice."

Paralympic Stadium
The International Paralympic Committee has decided to allow Russian athletes to compete in the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on limited conditions. Here, a general inside view of National Indoor Stadium on March 2, 2022 in Beijing, China, is shown. Photo by Zhe Ji/Getty Images for International Paralympic Committee

In a separate statement, IPC President Andrew Parsons said that the decision made by the organization was the harshest one that it could provide without breaking its constitution. Because of this, the IPC decided to set hard rules against the athletes while still allowing them to compete.

"In deciding what actions the IPC should take, it was fundamental that we worked within the framework of our new constitution to remain politically neutral and within the IPC Handbook, the rules and regulations that govern the Paralympic Movement," he explained.

The decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Paralympics similarly corresponds with what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended. In a February statement, the IOC suggested barring athletes from the two countries from participating in its events. However, the IOC did acknowledge that some organizations, such as the IPC, might not be able to do this for legal reasons.

"The IOC EB strongly urges International Sports Federations and organizers of sports events worldwide to do everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus," according to the organization.

"Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colors, flags or anthems should be displayed."

The restrictions placed upon Russian athletes are the latest to affect the sports world amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Newsweek previously reported that Russia has been suspended from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) along with Belarus. The two nations were also barred from international competition affiliated with the organization.

"The ITF remains in close contact with the Ukraine Tennis Federation and stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine," wrote the sports body.

The National Hockey League (NHL) also recently announced the severance of business relations with undisclosed Russian companies. The professional ice hockey organization also announced that Russia will no longer be in consideration for hosting league events, while also posting in support of its Russian players.

"We also remain concerned about the well-being of the players from Russia, who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL clubs, and not on behalf of Russia," wrote the league. "We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position."

Update 3/2/2022 at 10:40 a.m. EST: This story has been updated to provide more quotes and background information.