The International Paralympic Committee has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Winter Games in Beijing.
The opening ceremony takes place in China on Friday with the Games to begin on Saturday.
IPC President Andrew Parsons has said that the rapidly escalating situation in Ukraine has put them in an impossible position and in order to preserve the integrity of the Games, the decision has now been made to refuse entries from Russia and Belarus.
Athletes from both countries had in recent days been allowed to compete as neutrals.
In a statement on the IPC website, Parsons said:
“At the IPC we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix. However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many Governments are having an influence on our cherished event.
“The IPC is a membership-based organisation, and we are receptive to the views of our member organisations.
“When our members elected the Board in December 2021 it was to maintain and uphold the principles, values, and rules of the Paralympic Movement. As Board members that is a responsibility and duty we take extremely seriously.
“In taking our decision yesterday we were looking at the long-term health and survival of the Paralympic Movement. We are fiercely proud of the principles and values that have made the Movement what it is today.
“However, what is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games.
“Yesterday we said we would continue to listen, and that is what we are doing.
“In the last 12 hours an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us and been very open, for which I am grateful. 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. Multiple NPCs, some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.
“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable. First and foremost, we have a duty as part of the Paralympic mission, enshrined in the constitution, to guarantee and supervise the organisation of successful Paralympic Games, to ensure that in sport practiced within the Paralympic Movement the spirit of fair play prevails, violence is banned, the health risk of the athletes is managed and fundamental ethical principles are upheld.
“With this in mind, and in order to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus.
“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.
“Athlete welfare is and always will be a key concern for us. As a result of today’s decision 83 Para athletes are directly impacted by this decision. However, if RPC and NPC Belarus remain here in Beijing then nations will likely withdraw. We will likely not have a viable Games. If this were to happen, the impact would be far wider reaching.
“I hope and pray that we can get back to a situation when the talk and focus is fully on the power of sport to transform the lives of persons with disabilities, and the best of humanity.”