A Russian and Belarusian appeal against their IPC suspension has been upheld ©Getty Images

An appeal by Russia and Belarus against their suspension by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has been upheld on a "technicality", the IPC has said.

The National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) of both countries were suspended by the IPC membership at an Extraordinary General Assembly in November, amid the invasion of Ukraine.

However, the IPC Independent Appeals Tribunal has now set aside the decision following in-person hearings in Dubai last month.

It ruled that the General Assembly should have considered the same supporting evidence that the IPC put before the Appeals Tribunal, including information the IPC said only became available after the suspensions were confirmed in November.

Neither side is said to have raised this issue, but the Tribunal said it "did not wish to substitute itself" for the IPC membership.

International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said the organisation disagreed with the Appeal Tribunal's decision ©Getty Images
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said the organisation disagreed with the Appeal Tribunal's decision ©Getty Images

It means the issue will again be put before the IPC General Assembly at the next meeting on September 28 and 29 in Bahrain, this time with the additional information and evidence available.

The development does not mean that Para-athletes from Russia and Belarus will be able to start competing, the Tribunal has confirmed, as this was a separate decision made by the IPC Governing Board in March last year.

They will remain banned from world and regional events, and sanctioned-level competitions, in the six Para sports the IPC governs.

However, the news is the latest twist in the IPC's relationship with Russia and Belarus. 

At Beijing 2022, the IPC said athletes from the countries should be allowed to compete under a neutral flag, before dramatically performing a U-turn and banning them just a day later.

The Winter Paralympics opened just eight days after Vladimir Putin launched the Russian invasion of Ukraine, aided by Belarus.

"Following the events that we saw unfold just before the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, our members made it clear that the membership status of NPCs Russia and Belarus needed to be considered by the General Assembly," said IPC President Andrew Parsons. 

"We believe that our actions taken to call the 2022 Extraordinary General Assembly in Berlin and allow every member the chance to present their views on these important matters, fulfilled our obligations under our rules. 

"Our Independent Appeals Tribunal decided differently, which is a decision we certainly respect, but disagree with. 

"As we already had committed to do, we will bring these matters back to our General Assembly later this year, follow the Appeal Tribunal's directions by presenting the additional evidence we have since acquired, and give our members the opportunity to decide these important matters."

Russia was initially suspended by 64 votes to 39, with 16 abstentions, while Belarus was suspended by 54 votes to 45 with 18 abstaining.

The IPC said it stemmed from the two nations' "inability to comply with their membership obligations under the IPC constitution". 

"This includes the obligations to 'ensure that, in Para sport within the Paralympic Movement, the spirit of fair play prevails, the safety and health of the athletes are protected, and fundamental ethical principles are upheld' and 'not to do anything (by act or omission) that is contrary to the purpose or objects of the IPC and/or that risks bringing the IPC, the Paralympic Movement, or Para sport into disrepute,'" the worldwide body added.

Dmitry Svishchev, the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports, welcomed the decision to uphold the appeal.

Russian Para athletes remain banned, despite the Tribunal's decision ©Getty Images
Russian Para athletes remain banned, despite the Tribunal's decision ©Getty Images

"This is an intermediate victory, but not the final one," he told Russia's state news agency TASS.

"We certainly congratulate the leadership of the Russian Paralympic Committee, but now it is necessary to deal with the return of athletes to competitions.

"This will be the focus of efforts."

In a statement, the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC), whose President Pavel Rozhkov led its delegation in Dubai, said that the Tribunal had ruled in its favour because of "procedural breaches".

"There was a lack of cogent evidence before the Extraordinary General Assembly to support findings of a breach of membership obligations as expressly claimed by the IPC Governing Board," the RPC said.

The RPC said the Tribunal had ruled that they could not be suspended for breaching the Olympic Truce as this is not legally binding on its signatories, and the RPC is not a signatory.

It also claimed that it could not be suspended "because of the risk that IPC activities may be used by the RPC for political propaganda" as a breach of obligations must be proven, not just the risk of a breach.

"The RPC and the All-Russian Sport Federations developing Paralympic sports are in ongoing discussions with the International Federations that have allowed Russian athletes to compete in the qualifying events about the conditions for athletes to compete in sports not governed by the IPC," the RPC said.

"The Russian Paralympic Committee is considering possible options for further legal protection of athletes' rights in relation to them not being permitted to compete in international competitions in sports governed by the IPC."