MOSCOW (Reuters) - Paralympic organizers said on Monday they would let some Russians compete as neutrals at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in March, but upheld a ban on Moscow fielding a national team.
Russia has been barred from all Paralympic competitions since August 2016 over allegations of state-sponsored doping that have also led to the suspension of the country’s athletics federation and its anti-doping agency.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said it will let Russian athletes who met “strict conditions” compete in five sports as neutrals, as a recognition of Russian efforts to revamp its anti-doping operation.
“Although the Russian Paralympic Committee remains suspended they have made significant progress and we have to recognize this,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement.
“Russian Para athletes are now regularly tested and are amongst the most scrutinized Para athletes in the world,” he added.
There was no immediate reaction from Russian authorities.
Eligible Russian Paralympians will be allowed to compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, wheelchair curling and the biathlon, the IPC said.
Between 30 and 35 Russians are expected to meet the criteria and will be allowed to compete under the Paralympic flag, without any reference to Russia on their kit, it added.
Russia did not compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics after its Paralympic committee was suspended. Dozens of Russians were banned from competing at the Rio Olympics for the same reason.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month banned Russia from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics over what it called the “systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping testing system at the 2014 Sochi Games.
But the IOC left the door open for athletes without a history of doping to compete at its invitation as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” without the Russian tricolor, national emblems or anthem.
The Pyeongchang Paralympic Winter Games take place from March 9 to 18.
Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Heavens