By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - Russia will find out in two weeks whether it is to be banned completely from the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro after officials opened proceedings against the country on Friday following revelations of doping cover-ups.
"Suspension proceedings against the National Paralympic Committee of Russia (NPC Russia) have been opened following the publication of the McLaren Report on Monday and additional information it has since received from the report's author," the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said in a statement.
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Richard McLaren's 'Independent Person Report' for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revealed the widespread cover-up of positive doping tests across a range of sports, with para-athletes also involved.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will decide on Sunday whether to ban Russia entirely from the main Rio Games next month, where their athletics and weightlifting teams are already suspended.
The IPC said it expects to announce its decision on whether to suspend Russia the week commencing Aug. 1.
Should the NPC be suspended they will have 21 days to appeal against the decision. The Paralympics take place from Sept. 7-18.
"The IPC has been provided with the names of the para-athletes associated with the 35 'disappearing positive samples' from the Moscow laboratory highlighted in the report," the IPC said.
"The IPC is also sending 19 samples from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games for immediate further analysis after they were identified by Richard McLaren's investigation team as having been potentially doctored as part of the sample swapping regime during the Games."
The IPC also echoed the comments of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) task force after it said it had not seen enough evidence of a change of approach in anti-doping when considering Russia's appeal against its track and field ban.
"In light of the prevailing doping culture endemic within Russian sport at the very highest levels, NPC Russia appears unable or unwilling to ensure compliance with and the enforcement of the IPC's Anti-Doping Code within its own national jurisdiction," the IPC said.
"The IPC considers this vital to ensuring athletes are able to compete on a level playing field.
"The report revealed an unimaginable scale of institutionalized doping in Russian sport that was orchestrated at the highest level. McLaren's findings are of serious concern for everyone committed to clean and honest sport," the IPC added.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)