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Belarusian president backs national Paralympians’ gesture at 2016 Rio

The Belsrusian national Paralympic team along with their own national flag carried the national flag of Russia during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, September 8. /TASS/. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko hailed the gesture of the country’s national Paralympic team, who carried the national flag of Russia during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Brazil, presidential spokeswoman Natalia Eismont told a Russian radio station on Thursday.

President of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee Oleg Shepel earlier said that the 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.

"It was the initiative of the Belarusian delegation to carry the flag," Eismont said in an interview with Govorit Moskva radio station. "Nevertheless, I would like to stress that it was the state’s stance, including the stance of our president and the president of the Paralympic Committee (of Belarus)."

"We express our solidarity with the Russian Paralympians," President Lukashenko’s spokesperson added.

Last month, the Belarusian Paralympic delegation informed the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that it intended to carry the Russian flag alongside the Belarusian flag at the opening ceremony, but the world’s governing body of Paralympic sports replied with a refusal.

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.