No early lifting of Russia ban, says Paralympics chief

No early lifting of Russia ban, says Paralympics chief

No early lifting of Russia ban, says Paralympics chief

The Olympic movement may have lifted its ban on drug-tainted Russia, but there is no prospect of the Paralympics following suit until strict criteria are met, the body's president told AFP on Thursday.

Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said Russia, which was allowed to send 30 athletes to compete as neutrals at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, "had progressed a lot".

But he said the IPC wouldn't budge on its stance with the Russian Paralympic Committee, which was banned in 2016 following revelations of a mass, allegedly state-sponsored, doping programme.

"The situation is very clear, because we have agreed reinstatement criteria with the Russian Paralympic Committee," Parsons told AFP in an interview in Pyeongchang.

"We cannot right after these Games, for example, lift the suspension -- they have to meet these criteria," he added.

The International Olympic Committee banned Russia in December -- more than a year after the Paralympic body -- after its investigations established "systemic" doping by Russia.

Out of the four athletes to fail drug tests at last month's Winter Olympics, two of them were from Russia's contingent of athletes declared clean of doping and allowed to compete as neutrals.

But Russia's ban was lifted three days after the closing ceremony when anti-doping experts said they had established that no more Russian athletes had tested positive in Pyeongchang.

The IPC has demanded that Russia "adequately address" the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency's McLaren report, which unearthed evidence of a state-backed doping conspiracy.

Russia's anti-doping body must also be fully reinstated by the WADA before it can return to the Paralympics.

However, no athletes have so far testing positive at the Pyeongchang Paralympics and Parsons said he had no concerns over the Russians competing in South Korea.

"We can, with a certain degree of confidence... say that these 30 athletes competing here are clean," the Brazilian said.

He also hailed the success of the Pyeongchang Paralympics, which has broken records for ticket sales after topping 320,000.

"I think it's the natural growth of the movement, there is more interest about Paralympic sport," he said.

Among three countries to make their debuts at the Winter Paralympics was North Korea, extending a detente with South Korea which started at the Olympics.

Some 567 athletes are competing at the Games, which conclude on Sunday, in 80 medal events across six sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice hockey, snowboard and wheelchair curling.

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