MINSK, September 8. /TASS/. The authorities of Belarus are not afraid of sanctions, which could follow after a member of its Paralympic team carried the Russian national flag alongside his country’s at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil, presidential spokesperson Natalia Eismont told TASS on Thursday.
President of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee Oleg Shepel earlier said that the Russian flag gesture at the opening ceremony, held on Wednesday at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, was to express solidarity with the entire Russian Paralympic team, which was barred by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) from taking part in the 2016 Rio Games.
"We are closely following the developments of this situation," Eismont said in an interview with TASS. "We hope that there would be no harm inflicted on the Belarusian Paralympians, who first of all simply expressed their humane solidarity. However, we are not afraid of the sanctions."
Last month, the Belarusian Paralympic delegation informed the IPC that it intended to carry the Russian flag alongside the Belarusian at the opening ceremony, but the world’s governing body of Paralympic sports replied with a refusal.
Eismont added that if the Belarusian "Paralympians were afraid" of the possible consequences, "they would have never brought the Russian national flag to the opening ceremony, which was broadcast across the globe."
"President [Alexander Lukashenko] expressed his support for this gesture of solidarity on behalf of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee," she said adding that "this is the official state stance."
While Eismont was speaking with a TASS correspondent she was unaware that IPC spokesman Craig Spence had already announced that the Paralympic accreditation of the Belarusian athlete in question had been revoked following his defiant gesture.
"The IPC has cancelled the accreditation of the individual who carried the Russian flag as part of the Belarus delegation in the OC (Opening Ceremony) Rio 2016," IPC spokesman Craig Spence wrote in his Twitter account early Thursday.
Later in the day, Spence told a news conference that there would be no sanctions at all against the Belarusian Paralympic Committee (BPC) over the incident adding that the IPC already spoke on the matter with the Belarusian body reminding them that, according to regulations, all political manifestations are prohibited during the course of Paralympic Games.
On August 7, the IPC decided to bar the whole Russian Paralympic team from taking part in the 2016 Summer Paralympics. The ruling came on the heels of a report delivered earlier in the summer by the Independent Commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The commission, led by Canadian sports law professor Richard McLaren, claimed in particular that a total of 35 doping samples were concealed in the Russian Paralympic sports between 2012 and 2015. However, it turned out later that not all the stated cases of concealed doping samples concerned the Russian Paralympic Committee. Nevertheless, the IPC decided on collectively punishing the Russian national team.
The RPC filed a lawsuit with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on August 15 in Lausanne against the IPC’s decision, but eight days later, the Swiss-based court ruled to uphold the ban slapped on the whole Russian Paralympic squad.
In late August, the RPC submitted a motion with the Supreme Federal Court of Switzerland appealing the decision made earlier by the CAS. The motion was eventually rejected by the federal court.