More than 30 Russian athletes will be arriving in Alberta this week to compete in the International Para-Nordic World Cup 2017 ahead of the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The decision by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to allow Russian athletes to compete comes as Russia is embroiled in an international doping scandal.
Back in August 2016, the IPC suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee because it did not comply with the IPC’s Anti-Doping Code and the World Doping Code.
This meant that many Russian athletes were banned from competing in the 2016 Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
In September 2017, the IPC upheld that suspension. However, the committee still allowed for individual Russian athletes to compete as a “neutral” athlete.
It’s a controversial decision that has top-level Canadian Paralympic officials disappointed – arguing athletes shouldn’t be allowed to compete if they’re still under a suspension.
“They shouldn’t be competing at all until after they’ve been fully reinstated,” Cross Country Canada High Performance Director Mike Edwards said.
“Our athletes could be lining up with athletes who have been implicated in Sochi and it hasn’t been dealt with yet so that’s a concern for us.”
“We want to make sure the athletes who are coming here competing are athletes who are clean and competing on an even keel with our athletes.”
It’s a thought echoed by head coach of the Canadian Para-Nordic Ski team, Robin McKeever.
However, despite his concerns, McKeever said he’s confident in Canada’s Paralympic athletes.
“I believe whether they’re doped or not, we’ve beaten them in the past and we will again,” he said.
Para-Nordic Cross Country Ski athlete and Olympic gold medalist Brian McKeever said his priority is focusing on his race and performance.
“I don’t really think about my competitors too much anymore. All I have to do is think about is strategy and racing,” he said.
Canmore will host the International Para-Nordic World Cup 2017 on Dec. 8 to 18.
A decision on whether to reinstate the Russian Paralympic Committee is expected soon.