Russia will not compete at next month’s Paralympics in Rio after losing an appeal against a ban imposed for state-sponsored doping.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) ban on all Russian competitors.
The IPC made the decision after the McLaren report detailed a Russian state-sponsored doping programme.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the decision as “cynical”.
Medvedev said “certain leaders of the Paralympic movement” wanted to “squeeze out strong competitors”, and he went on to call the decision “a blow to all people with disabilities, not just Russians”.
The CAS panel, which plans to publish the full grounds for its decision later, said the IPC’s decision to ban the entire Russian team “was proportionate in the circumstances”.
It added that the Russian Paralympic Committee did not file any evidence contradicting the facts put forward by the IPC.
The IPC’s decision is in contrast to that of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which chose not to hand Russia a blanket ban from the Olympic Games.
The IOC was widely criticised for ignoring the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) recommendation to ban Russia.
Instead, each individual sporting federation was given the power to decide if Russian competitors were allowed to compete. A three-person IOC panel then had the final say.
Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva did not compete at the Olympics as Russia’s athletics team was banned
In the end, more than 270 Russian athletes were cleared to compete at the Olympics, with Russia winning 56 medals in total and finishing in fourth place in the medal table.
Russia had been set to take 267 competitors across 18 sports to the Paralympics. The Cas statement added that it had not looked at the “natural justice rights or personality rights” of individual Russian athletes in making its decision.
Russia’s Paralympic team’s lawyer, Alexei Karpenko, confirmed the decision was final, saying they would try to file an appeal with the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, but it would take between one and two years for the court to consider the case.
“So I’m afraid Russian Paralympians will not be going to the Games in any case,” Karpenko added.
IPC president Sir Philip Craven, who has described Russia’s anti-doping system as “broken, corrupted and entirely compromised”, and claimed it put “medals over morals”, said he was “greatly encouraged” by the Cas decision.
He said it was “not a day for celebration”, adding: “We have enormous sympathy for the Russian athletes who will now miss out.”
Margarita Goncharova, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist in athletics, is among the Russians who will miss out on competing in Rio
“It is a sad day for the Paralympic movement,” said Craven. “But we hope also a new beginning. We hope this decision acts as a catalyst for change in Russia and we can welcome the Russian Paralympic Committee back as a member safe in the knowledge that it is fulfilling its obligations to ensure fair competition for all.”
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the ban was “political” and “not within legal framework”, while lawyer Karpenko called it a “black day for the sports judiciary”.
He said: “I can only express huge disappointment at the ruling. The rights of Russian Paralympians have been blatantly violated.
“Regardless of whether the Russian Paralympics Committee is guilty of the charges, punishing innocent athletes and not allowing them to defend themselves – which was an opportunity afforded to the Russian Olympics athletes – this is a flagrant violation of human rights.”
Meanwhile, Dmitry Svishchev, the head of Russia’s parliamentary sports committee, described the Cas decision as “an inhumane act”.
Speaking to the state-owned Tass news agency, he added: “[Cas has shown] an unprecedented impudence and lack of principle. How is it possible to bar the people who with their courage have earned the right to a proper life from the Games?
“Whatever this court is called, it is an inhumane court. One can punish officials, coaches, but by no means should athletes be punished: when looking at what they do in spite of hardships and strain, one wants to pull off their hat. Such people should only be respected.”