(REUTERS) - Britain condemned on Wednesday (March 2) the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) decision to let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete as neutral participants in the Winter Paralympics in Beijing, despite calls to ban them following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for which Belarus has been a key staging area.
The International Olympic Committee this week recommended that sports federations suspend teams and athletes from the two countries but added that they could compete as neutrals if time or legal constraints prevented their removal.
“They will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table,” the IPC said in a statement.
“In deciding what action to take, the board was guided by the IPC’s core principles, which include a commitment to political neutrality and impartiality, and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of sport.
“These are key components of the new IPC constitution that was approved at the 2021 IPC general assembly held just over three months ago.”
However, the decision was met with dismay, with Nadine Dorries, Britain’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, saying in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed in the IPC – this is the wrong decision and I call on them to urgently reconsider.
“They must join the rest of the world in condemning this barbaric invasion by banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing.
Dorries said she would consult with British sports bodies on how best to protest this decision.
Russian athletes were already set to compete under the Russian Paralympic Committee banner as part of sanctions imposed for a state-sponsored doping programme.
The IPC added they would not host any events in Russia and Belarus, including World and European Championships, until further notice and urged other international and regional para federations to follow a similar approach.
A number of sports federations, including world football governing body Fifa and European football governing body Uefa, have banned teams and athletes from the two countries, and also stripped them of key events such as this season’s Champions League final.
“Given the time constraints... the IPC governing board will reconvene after the Games to further discuss this matter and any additional action that may be required,” the statement added.
The 20-member Ukrainian contingent, accompanied by nine guides, arrived in Beijing on Wednesday following initial fears they may not be able to make it in time for the Games, which run from March 4-13.