Russia’s Paralympic ban extended as IPC eyes PyeongChang

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Russia faces a “strong chance” of being banned from the 2018 Paralympics if it does not meet criteria for competition reinstatement by September, the International Paralympic Committee said Monday.

Russia has been banned from IPC-sanctioned competition due to its poor anti-doping record since August. It was left out of the Rio Games in September. An IPC task force of five unanimously voted to extend the ban, it announced Monday.

The task force monitoring Russia’s progress to meeting reinstatement criteria said it “continues to have significant concerns regarding the lack of any material progress on a number of fundamental issues.”

The task force said there has not been meaningful change in Russia’s anti-doping culture. It has not addressed findings of rampant doping problems in the country detailed by World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned reports last year.

“Unless and until these problems are fully addressed … it would be almost impossible for Russian Para athletes to return to IPC-sanctioned competitions without jeopardizing the integrity of those competitions,” IPC task force chair Andy Parkinson said.

IPC president Philip Craven said Monday there is cause for optimism, specifically that Russia’s anti-doping agency could resume drug testing as early as June.

The IPC governing board “is generally pleased and encouraged by the co-operation and steps forward [Russia] is making in various areas toward its reinstatement,” Craven said. “Although we are pleased with the progress to date, a number of key criteria still need to be met. At the moment there are a lot of good plans with timelines on paper, but we now need to see plans in action and delivering concrete results.”

Russia dominated the 2014 Sochi Paralympic medal standings.

It tallied 80 medals, including 30 golds, more than three times as many total medals and golds as the second-place nation. In fact, Russia topped the medal table at each of the last three Winter Paralympics.

If Russia is banned from PyeongChang, the U.S. could be right in the mix. It finished third with 18 medals in Sochi, behind Russia and Ukraine (25), though Americans came home with just two gold medals.

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