The International Paralympic Committee just found a harsher way to punish Russia for invading Ukraine.
The IPC announced on Thursday that athletes from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to compete during at 2022 Beijing Paralympics, in a step that goes farther than the so-called "harshest" punishment it handed out on Wednesday.
"No one is happy with the decision but certainly this is the best decision for the Paralympic Games to go ahead," an IPC official said at a press conference on Thursday, per Al Jazeera.
This decision comes less than a day after the IPC announced it would be allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, but they would be "neutral" competitors without a country or a flag. That was supposed to be the "harshest possible punishment," according to one official.
But they found an even tougher punishment later in the day, after critics blasted the move.
"In the last 12 hours an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us and been very open [...] They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games," said a statement released by the IPC.
A group of Ukrainian and international athletes ripped the IPC for its initial decision on Wednesday,
"Both the IOC and IPC continue to chose politics over principle and Russian interests over athletes' interest," they said in a statement on Twitter.
Former Canadian Olympic gymnast Kyle Shewfelt retweeted the joint statement yesterday, calling the "neutral" idea a "toothless half measure."
This is an incredibly powerful statement by the Ukrainian athletes and @GlobalAthleteHQ. Please read & share. \n\nThere is still time for @Olympics @Paralympics to do the right thing\u2026\n\nThe world is watching. Lead with real action, not toothless half measures and statements.https://twitter.com/GlobalAthleteHQ/status/1499022013981151239\u00a0\u2026— Kyle Shewfelt (@Kyle Shewfelt) 1646232818
Shewfelt commended the IPC for reversing its decision on Thursday.
"They are suffering the consequences of decisions they likely had no part in making, but a strong message needed to be sent," tweeted Shewfelt.
The IPC had something very similar to say to the affected athletes.
"To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce. You are victims of your governments’ actions," the organization said in a statement.
The IPC will vote later this year on whether to suspend or expel Russia and Belarus from the Paralympics.
The Winter Paralympics start Friday and run until Sunday, March 13.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.