The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said Thursday it was banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, which begin on Friday.
“At the IPC we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix. However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many Governments are having an influence on our cherished event," IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement.
Russia is preparing to file a lawsuit with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) following the decision, Russian state news agency TASS reported on Thursday.
“We are currently in work to establish our legal position to file lawsuits on the protection of our athletes’ rights, against the discrimination of athletes based on their ethnicity and the use of sports as a tool of a political pressure,” Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said, according to TASS.
Parsons said the IPC's decision was also a matter of safety and security, with the situation in the athletes' village becoming "untenable" as tensions escalate, he said.
He said Paralympic committees from multiple countries had threatened not to compete, and that if Russian and Belarusian athletes were allowed to take part, "nations will likely withdraw" and "we will likely not have a viable Games."
“To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce. You are victims of your governments’ actions," he said.
The decision comes less than a day after the IPC initially permitted athletes from both countries to compete as neutrals under the Paralympic flag and the Paralympic anthem. It will affect 83 athletes from the two countries, Parsons said.
According to TASS, Matytsin said: “It is extremely inadmissible to put in action any type of sanctions in regard to Paralympians, who have already arrived for the tournament.”
Matytsin said he wanted CAS to consider the matter before Friday’s opening ceremony, TASS said.