Russian President Vladimir Putin has sharply criticized a decision barring the country's Paralympic team from competing in Brazil, part of the fallout from a doping scandal that kept many of its athletes out of the Rio Olympics.
Speaking at an August 25 at a Kremlin ceremony honoring Russians who competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics this month, Putin also promised that Moscow will organize events in Russia for banned Paralympic athletes.
Nearly 120 Russian competitors were barred from the Rio games after world authorities documented a Russian state-sponsored sports doping program that implicated top government officials and even the county’s main security agency, the FSB.
The entire Russian team has also been barred from the Paralympics, which start on September 7, over the same allegations.
“The decision to disqualify our Paralympians is outside the bounds of law, morality, and humanity," Putin said.
He asserted that international anti-doping organizations had singled out Russia for harsh treatment due to “political pressure" and said the ruling “humiliates those who take such decisions."
Russian officials have alternated between anger and remorse in responding to the unprecedented banning of its athletes, something Putin also appeared to show in his Kremlin comments shown on state television.
He said that Moscow acknowledged its mistakes in tackling sports doping and was striving to improve its anti-doping structures "in the most transparent way."
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev hosted another ceremony to honor the competitors on August 25, during which he presented them with new imported luxury cars.
In addition to the cars, Sport Minister Vitaly Mutko said medalists would be receiving cash awards for their achievements: $62,000 for gold, $39,000 for silver, $26,000 for bronze.
Putin said winners of the Paralympic competitions to be held in Russia will get the same awards they would have received from success at the Paralympics in Brazil.
Also on August 25, a Moscow district court ordered the assets of the former director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory to be seized.
Grigory Rodchenkov, who faces charges of abuse of authority, fled to the United States and earlier this year detailed a sophisticated system that involved state security agents hiding tainted urine samples during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
His testimony was used in the investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that resulted in all but one of the athletes on Russia’s track-and-field team being banned from the Rio Olympics. Russian competitors in other sports had to prove they were clean by meeting several criteria in order to be eligible to compete at Rio.
Russia was fourth in the medal count at the Rio games with 56 medals, 19 of them gold.