The Foreign ministry of Russia has reportedly threatened diplomatic consequences with Germany after two State Duma members were denied entry into the country for a planned meeting with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
The meeting was requested by the Russians earlier this year at the IPC headquarters in Bonn to discuss the suspension and future reinstatement of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC). However, entry was denied to Duma vice-speaker Igor Lebedev and Physical Culture, Sports, Tourism and Youth Affairs Committee chair Mikhail Degtyarev into the country. The duo had been among those sanctioned by the European Union for their alleged role since 2014 in the Ukrainian crisis.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said this approach of the German authorities is contrary to common sense and is counterproductive. Zakharova added we will take it into account in their bilateral relations with Germany.
Lebedev has consistently denied that Russia has an issue with doping. The Duma vice-speaker went on to recently propose legalizing hooliganism and turning it into a sport in a bid to curb problems of the country with football-related evidence.
However, three members of the Duma did attend a meeting that was described as "a step in the right direction" by IPC President Sir Philip Craven.
The delegation was led by two-time Olympic gold medal-winning ice hockey player Viacheslav Fetisov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture, Sport, Tourism and Youth Affairs. Fetisov was joined by Committee colleague Valeriy Gazzaev and RPC vice-president Oleg Smolin. They discussed the proposed reinstatement criteria by the IPC following the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee in August. This was after evidence of institutional doping in the country was published by the World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned McLaren Report. This report claimed that up to 1,000 Russian athletes had samples manipulated or tampered with at events including the Sochi 2014 Paralympics.
IPC President Sir Philip Craven said it was an encouraging meeting and certainly a step in the right direction, especially after last week’s admission from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia’s anti-doping system has failed. Craven added there was a lot of discussion regarding the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and the ongoing qualification process in addition to discussing the reinstatement criteria. The IPC President also remarked that we reiterated that under the IPC’s rules, individual athletes cannot compete whilst their National Paralympic Committee is suspended. Craven added the IPC Governing Board will lift its suspension immediately if the RPC meet the reinstatement criteria in full before Pyeongchang 2018.
The President of IPC also commented that the door is certainly not closed on Russia’s participation at Pyeongchang 2018 and also remarked the ball is very much in the court of the RPC. Craven also said it may be in doing so may then be possible for the RPC to enter athletes into qualification events or alternatively apply to the IPC for either bipartite or returned slots from National Paralympic Committees in order for eligible athletes to compete at the Games.