The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has maintained its suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) but said that some Russians will be allowed to compete as neutrals at the Winter Paralympics in March.
Citing “progress made by the RPC in improving its anti-doping activities,” the IPC said in a statement on January 29 that it will allow Russian para-athletes who meet “strict conditions” and can prove they are clean to compete in five sports under the name Neutral Paralympic Athlete (NPA).
The International Olympic Committee has made a similar ruling for the February Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, over what it called "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.
The IPC said its governing board decided to maintain the suspension after receiving an update on January 27 from the task force responsible for monitoring the RPC’s progress in meeting the reinstatement criteria.
According to the task force, steps taken by the RPC in the last 13 months included the implementation of a “robust testing program of Russian para-athletes under the close supervision of WADA” and the launch of a “new anti-doping education program” for athletes and coaches.
However, two criteria are still outstanding: the full reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the provision of “an official response specifically and adequately addressing” the doping allegations.
Russia did not compete in the 2016 Rio Paralympics after the country's Paralympic committee was suspended over allegations of state-sponsored doping at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Russian officials deny state involvement, despite the evidence.
The IPC said that an estimated 30-35 eligible Russians will be allowed to compete in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboard, and wheelchair curling at the March 9-18 Paralympics in Pyeongchang.
Russians had been allowed to compete as neutral athletes in some qualifying events ahead of the games before a final decision, but that came too late for Russia to qualify in hockey, according to the IPC.