Published: Thu, February 01, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Doping bans overturned for 28 Russian athletes ahead of Olympics

Doping bans overturned for 28 Russian athletes ahead of Olympics

Responding to the verdict of sport's top court, the International Olympic Committee denied that all of the 28 athletes who won their cases would be allowed to compete in the PyeongChang Olympics, which opens next week.

"This may have a serious impact on the future fight against doping", it said in a statement.

"In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes concerned."

The doping bans of 28 Russian athletes were overturned on Thursday, creating a fresh controversy around the International Olympic Committee's position on Russia's participation at this year's Winter Olympics, scheduled to begin in a week in South Korea.

"All athletes were acquitted of charges in cases on doping violations at the Sochi Games", Kolobkov said in a statement.

He adds that athletes for those not invited to Pyeongchang will study the verdicts before they "take further legal steps".

But CAS slashed their lifetime Olympic bans to a ban from the Pyeongchang Games.

The ruling provided "a very small measure of punishment for some athletes but a complete "get-out-of-jail-free card" for most", lawyer Jim Walden said. Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer whose investigation for the World Anti-Doping Agency formed the basis of the Russian bans, as well as the key whistleblower in the scandal, Grigory Rodchenkov, had both given evidence at the CAS appeal hearings.

Russian Olympic Assembly chief Alexander Zhukov called the CAS decision "fair", adding that these 28 athletes are now able to take part in the 2018 Olympic Games.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said: "Our guys and all of us are happy that justice has finally triumphed".

"The CAS decisions today prove that many of those who have been accused are in fact clean athletes", he added. The IOC said the CAS ruling "does not mean that these 28 athletes are declared innocent".

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling was set to reinstate seven Russian medals from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, including gold in men's skeleton and men's 50-kilometer cross-country skiing.

Organizers of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang will replace soldiers with civilian volunteers on flag-hoisting duty when the North Korean team arrives in the athletes' village.

Bobsleigher Maxim Belugin was the only athlete not to lodge an appeal with Cas, while three other cases - biathletes Olga Zaytseva, Olga Vilukhina and Yana Romanova - have been "suspended".

The McLaren report said Russian athletes benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015, speaking of "a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy". Eleven more remain disqualified from the 2014 Sochi Games but had their lifetime Olympic bans cut to a ban only from the Pyeongchang Games.

The IOC in December also banned Russian Federation from the Olympics in Pyeongchang, citing its "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the Olympic anti-doping system.

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