(Reuters) – The International Paralympic Committee voted to suspend the National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) of Russia and Belarus with immediate effect, placing their para-athletes’ hopes of competing at the 2024 Paralympics in jeopardy.
Athletes from the two countries had previously been barred from competing in the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics in March over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for which Belarus has been a staging area.
Russia’s suspension was passed by 64 votes to 39, with 16 abstentions, at the IPC’s extraordinary General Assembly in Berlin on Wednesday. The suspension of Belarus’ NPC passed 54-45, with 18 abstentions.
Both NPCs were suspended for their “inability to comply with their membership obligations under the IPC Constitution.”
“Due to their suspension, NPC Russia and NPC Belarus lose all rights and privileges of IPC membership, in accordance with the IPC Constitution,” the IPC said in a statement.
“Both NPC Russia and NPC Belarus now have the right to appeal the decision.
“Should any appeal not be upheld then only the General Assembly can revoke the suspension. The next IPC General Assembly is due to take place in the final quarter of 2023 at a venue yet to be confirmed.”
IPC President Andrew Parsons said the NPCs of Russia and Belarus had been allowed to address the General Assembly and present their case prior to the vote.
“The situation that the world of sport faces right now is highly charged and complex,” Parsons said.
“I hope and pray that the conflict in Ukraine ends as soon as possible, that peace is secured, and that no more innocent lives are lost or impacted.”
Qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Games are due to run throughout 2023 and 2024.
The Russian team was also banned from the Rio Paralympics in 2016 over doping.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Hogue)