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Putin slams Paralympic ban as ‘outside the law, morality, humanity’

Moscow (AFP): President Vladimir Putin on Thursday lashed out against the ban on Russian Paralympians from Rio as the country has vowed to keep fighting the suspension it faces over state-sponsored doping.

“The decision to suspend our Paralympians is outside the law, morality, humanity,” Putin said in a ceremony at the Kremlin that honoured the Russian Olympic medallists returning from Rio.

Putin also pledged that the country would organise competitions for the banned Paralympians “to show all their skills.”

At the competitions, “the reward for the champions and winners will be the same as it would have been at the end of the Paralympic Games,” the Kremlin strongman said.

Russia last week appealed a decision by the International Paralympic Committee to suspend the country over evidence of state-sponsored doping.

After the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport announced it had rejected Russia’s appeal on Tuesday, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko condemned what he called a “political” decision.

The president of the Russian Paralympic Committee, Vladimir Lukin, on Wednesday pledged to press on with legal action in a bid to overturn the decision.

Mutko said that Russia would now contest the decision with the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland in the hope of seeing Russian Paralympians compete in Rio.

Putin, who at the Kremlin handed gold medal winners state awards, congratulated the Russian Olympic team on its “worthy performance” in Rio but deplored that some athletes, including nearly all of its track and field team, were sidelined from the Games.

“Unfortunately we witnessed how the humanist foundation of sport and Olympism was brazenly violated by politics,” Putin said, adding that “greed and maybe cowardice” had taken precedence over Olympic principles.

Russia narrowly escaped a blanket ban from the Rio Olympics last month when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) left it up to world sports federations to determine which Russians were eligible to compete while granting itself a final say.

Russia finished fourth in the Rio medal table with its 56 medals, including 19 gold.