Posted: 25.05.2023 14:52:00

People with unlimited possibilities

The story of how Belarusian Paralympic athletes fight for the truth and win

Ihar Boki

Might makes right. When Belarusian and Russian athletes were literally kicked out of the Paralympic Games in Beijing last year, everyone was in exactly the same condition — as if someone crept up behind and hit us on the head with all his might. But the matter was not limited to this: the officials of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) continued to inflict vile blows at the behest of the Western masters. They hit where it hurts the most. So, soon they initiated the meeting of an extraordinary General Assembly, at which they brazenly and cynically adjusted the constitution of the organisation to their wishes, and then temporarily suspended the membership of Belarus and Russia in the committee in violation of all moral and ethical norms, spitting on conscience and the code of justice. 

Ihar Boki

We are not allowed to play with the scammers anymore, they have all the cards marked, but our Paralympic athletes had no other choice — they boldly got involved in the fight for their honour, dignity and justice. For good and for truth. Having done a huge amount of work, we prepared and submitted documents to the IPC Appeals Tribunal, which, having met in Dubai at the end of April, heard a voluminous and comprehensive report from the Belarusian side. There’s nothing to be said: those sitting took our side! This is a very serious victory, now the IPC is obliged to restore the rights of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee. However, one should not relax: they are still in no hurry to allow Belarusian athletes to participate in international competitions: officials again want to put this issue on the agenda of the next General Assembly in Bahrain, which is scheduled for the end of September this year. Chairman of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee Oleg Shepel, chief specialist for international relations Yelena Gvai and three-time Paralympic champion Svetlana Motorina told the details of this epic battle at the National Press Centre. However, to be honest, what we heard made us feel hot and cold: the arrogance and cynicism of completely savage officials of the IPC, who do not care that they break the fate of innocent disabled athletes, is simply amazing. 

Lidziya Loban and Dzmitry Loban

We believe we don’t have to explain how exactly the International Paralympic Committee has fabricated its sanctions and decisions. They had no qualms about it. An eloquent fact that says a lot: the IPC office is located in Bonn, Germany, in the building that used to house the US Embassy. Such a subtle allusion to very thick circumstances. Just listen to Yelena Gvai to make sure you even more clearly imagine who we have to deal with, “The decision not to allow our athletes participate in international competitions was made at the Extraordinary General Assembly by the Executive Committee of the International Paralympic Committee. According to the new constitution, which was promptly adopted right there, this body was given absolute rights — it is impossible to appeal against the decisions of the executive committee, such a mechanism is simply not provided for in the constitution [it is about democratic values and their application only when this is beneficial to the democrats themselves]. Therefore, this issue was not considered in Dubai.” 
To be honest, the evidence base of the IPC was not only weak, it did not exist at all! This was forced to be recognised by the Appeals Tribunal, which emphasised that the lion’s share of the charges against us was not based on assumptions and conjectures: we believe, it is very likely, it may well be... This is wild jurisprudence, right? Level 100! Moreover, we have armor-piercing arguments against this fabulous rubbish: we have not violated either the constitution of the IPC, or the code, or any other legal norms. Our athletes are not politicians or soldiers, they are simply athletes with disabilities who want to compete, while the Paralympic Committee is a public organisation. Fortunately, we were heard. Or rather, they had to do it. A many-hour meeting, four breaks for consultations, but the decision was made, and it is not subject to appeal — Belarus regained its membership in the International Paralympic Committee. Our country gnawed it with its teeth. Nevertheless, so far only the battle has been won, not the war. Now it is important to consolidate the success of the General Assembly in Bahrain and achieve a return to the international arena. Oleg Shepel assures that we will not give up and will defend the truth, “We have much more chances for a positive result than at the Extraordinary Assembly, where the membership of the Belarusian Paralympic Committee was suspended. Because at that time representatives of 110 countries out of 180 members of the IPC took part in the meeting. Of these, 54 were against us, 45 were in favour, and 18 abstained. However, it should be taken into account that many of those who were on our side (the countries of the post-Soviet space, Iran) simply did not receive visas and could not fly to Germany for the Assembly [let’s talk about democracy again]. Of those who abstained, some at that time had not yet fully understood the situation, while others, according to our information, were, let’s say, financially interested — they promised to allocate funds to the account of their National Paralympic Committees. So, I think the Belarusian Paralympic athletes have great chances to return to the international arena — visas are not needed for Bahrain.” 
Today there is a split and a complete violation of all the norms of logic and law in the Paralympic movement (as well as in the Olympic movement). Many are finally beginning to realise that sport has become politics entirely, but not part of it. States and governments impudently interfere in the affairs of national committees and dictate their will to them. They don’t hesitate and don’t hide. Insolently! Head-on! 
“We were reproached for the fact that the Belarusian team participated in the We are together. Sport Games in Khanty-Mansiysk. They poked some photos from the competitions of skiers, hockey players and curling players, where the letter ‘z’ is supposedly visible. On this basis, our athletes were accused of supporting the military operation, although there were no Belarusian representatives in these sports even in the application, we did not participate!” Oleg Shepel says.
People say about this: it’s like talking to a brick wall. There is another expression: about sufferable things.  
“My father is Ukrainian, I myself was born in Kiev. Yelena Gvai has parents in Ukraine, the Secretary General of the Paralympic Committee Nikolai Shudeiko has a Ukrainian wife... And we are being dragged into politics. Sport is about peace! We must do everything to ensure that it acted as a unifying principle, but we are artificially divided…” Oleg Shepel gets excited. 
Our champion Svetlana Motorina summed up the meeting and heated debate, “It’s nice that the game is already afoot and there is a chance to return to world tournaments, to compete with all the strongest. I am far from politics, but it is obvious to me that we were suspended unfairly. It’s sad that we have to prove our rights through the courts. I’m sure the truth will prevail.”

By Sergei Kanashits
Photos by BELTA,