Russian President Putin has just given a scathing assessment of the collective ban on Russia’s Paralympic Team.
In doing so he has made it quite clear that he – like most Russians – sees the ban as purely political and completely rejects the reasoning behind it…
“The decision to disqualify our Paralympic athletes goes beyond law, morality and humanity. It is quite simply cynical to take out one’s revenge and frustration on people for whom sport has become their life purpose and whose example gives hope and self-confidence to millions of people with disabilities. I even feel pity for those who take decisions of this kind because they do not understand just how degrading this is for them.”
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The words “revenge and frustration” quite clearly show that Putin sees the campaign to ban the Russian Paralympic team as an act of spite and revenge for the failure to achieve a collective ban of the Russian Olympic team.
The Russians have made it clear that they do not agree with the legal reasoning of the CAS decision upholding the ban, and that they will continue to contest it in the civil courts and in the European Court of Human Rights.
As I have said previously, there is no doubt the Russians will pursue legal action to its conclusion in this affair. With the International Paralympic Committee looking at a disastrous failure of the Paralympic Games in Rio and apparently short of money, it may not be in good shape to contest whatever court cases the Russians bring, or to pay any court awards the Russians might win.
In addition to his comments about the Paralympic ban, Putin also made some very interesting comments about the Russian athletes who competed in the Rio Olympic Games
“We know what a difficult time our athletes had in Rio. The team was cut by nearly a third just before competition was about to start and lost the chance to show its ability in the sports in which Russia has traditionally been one of the recognised favourites. But you measured up to all of these challenges, showed great unity and proved that victory can be won not just by numbers, though numbers were important too, but perhaps more importantly, victory is also won through skill. You displayed a true fighting spirit, did not melt down or bend under the pressure, but fought and won.”
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The words “showed great unity” surely refer to the point I have made previously: that not a single Russian athlete has succumbed to the pressure to turn informer in return for the reward of a guaranteed place in the Rio Olympic Games and a lucrative sports career in the West.
What that means is that the entirety of the evidence that there is or was a state-sponsored system of doping in Russia is that contained in the McLaren report, which CAS has already said is “incomplete” and cannot be used as evidence in deciding the fate of individual athletes. That puts the IAAF, WADA, the IPC and potentially McLaren himself, in a very fragile position in light of the pending court cases.