VATICAN CITY (AP) — Russian athletes still have a long way to go before they can be readmitted to the Paralympics, according to the head of the International Paralympic Committee.
Russia was barred from the recently concluded Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro for state-backed doping. IPC President Philip Craven said the country has to prove it can meet certain readmission criteria that will be conveyed in the coming weeks.
"We want Russia to be back in competition. ... But there's a lot of work that will have to be done before that can happen," Craven told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a Vatican convention on faith and sports. "We don't have a deadline."
The 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are a year-and-a-half away.
"We don't have an amount of time to play with," Craven said. "We just have certain factors that will be conveyed to the Russian Paralympic Committee that have to be complied with. It's as simple as that."
While the International Olympic Committee decided against a complete ban on Russia for the Rio Olympics, the IPC barred the entire Russian team from the Paralympics. The IPC also rejected athletes' requests for "individual admission," and 94 athletes unsuccessfully petitioned German courts to be allowed to compete.
"People have said it was a courageous decision," Craven said. "It wasn't a courageous decision. The board was united and it was a correct decision and that's how I hope we will always operate."
Russian doping, including tampering with samples at the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, were outlined earlier this year by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.
Craven said the criteria for readmission will not include Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko stepping down from his position.
"I'm sure that that will not be a condition," Craven said. "I think what we're looking for is to be certain that we're dealing with a team that have clean athletes in it. That's really all it is.
"But it's a major ask based on the information that we are aware of following the McLaren report and, of course, there's a further McLaren report expected at the end of this month and we'll have to see what that divulges."
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf