Appeals by 45 Russian athletes against Olympic bans rejected

The ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ will compete in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag

In this Feb. 15, 2014, file photo, men’s 1,000-meter short track speedskating gold medalist Viktor Ahn, of Russia, gestures while holding his medal during the medals ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Russia’s desperate attempt to get 45 banned athletes — including several medal favourites — into the Pyeongchang Olympics failed just hours before Friday’s opening ceremony.

The International Olympic Committee had banned Russia because of a massive doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games, but gave individual athletes the chance to apply for admission to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” There were 168 Russians who passed the vetting process. Dozens more filed appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Friday, the court upheld the IOC’s right to decide who can compete.

Anti-doping officials praised the ruling, which is a heavy blow to Russian medal chances.

“That’s it. The story is over,” Russian delegation spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said.

After two days of hearings, the CAS panel ruled that the commissions that evaluated whether Russian applicants were eligible did not act in a “discriminatory, arbitrary or unfair manner.”

CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb read from a statement and declined to take questions, saying the IOC process “could not be described as a sanction but rather as an eligibility decision.”

Shamil Tarpishchev, a Russian member of the IOC, said the CAS ruling may have been legally correct but he disagreed with the spirit of the ruling.

“We are fighting for the truth,” he said.

The IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency welcomed the decision. The IOC said the decision “supports the fight against doping and brings clarity for all athletes.”

WADA president Craig Reedie described it as “absolutely correct.”

Among those excluded are six-time gold medallist Viktor Ahn, the short track speedskater whose return to his native South Korea for the Olympics had been eagerly anticipated by local fans.

Also out are cross-country skiing gold medallist Alexander Legkov and skeleton gold medallist Alexander Tretiakov, as well as potential medal contenders in biathlon, luge and bobsled.

Three former NHL players — Sergei Plotnikov, Anton Belov and Valeri Nichushkin — also lost appeals, though it was widely considered unlikely they would have played even if they had been successful because the Russian roster is already full.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said the decision was “a small glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark and sordid affair.”

“You hope justice has been served but how some of these athletes can keep dirty medals from Sochi but be excluded now is hard to reconcile,” Tygart said. “And why the IOC rushed the process on the Sochi medal decisions is unexplainable and a tragedy for clean athletes.”

In a telephone interview, Reedie told The Associated Press: “I am delighted at the decision and the way they expressed it.”

“They have quite clearly understood that there was systemic manipulation of the anti-doping process,” Reedie said. “Athletes can get their heads down and go. This particular issue is behind us.”

The IOC’s vetting process was designed to exclude Russian athletes from the games if IOC officials weren’t sure they were clean.

The “Olympic Athletes from Russia” will compete in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag in a decision designed to balance the rights of individual athletes with the need for a strong deterrent to doping.

As well as the 45 athletes, the ruling covers a luge coach and a skeleton coach.

The IOC has refused to comment on individual Russian athletes but says it decided who to exclude using a newly obtained Moscow laboratory database with evidence of past doping offences.

It refused to clear some Russians even after their disqualifications from the 2014 Olympics were lifted by CAS last week.

Stephen Hess, an international sports lawyer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said the decision was a victory for the IOC.

“There is no absolute right to get an invitation from the IOC to come to the Olympics,” Hess said. “That was within the IOC’s discretion. If Russia had an Olympic team, CAS might have said: ‘IOC, the Russians can put them on their own team. You can’t keep them out.’ But Russia doesn’t have an Olympic team.”

Jim Walden, the lawyer for Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, renewed calls for IOC President Thomas Bach to resign “for the sake of the Olympic ideal.”

Walden has accused the IOC and CAS of being “complicit in enabling Russian doping” for not implementing strong punishments for Russian athletes, including a blanket ban.

Friday’s verdict, he said, is “a small semblance of justice for clean athletes.”

Angela Ruggiero of the IOC athletes’ commission said the decision sent a message to athletes that “you should be incredibly confident that every athlete, including the Olympic Athletes from Russia, have had to clear incredibly high hurdles to get here.”

The barred Russian athletes, however, are still considering their legal options.

Schellenberg Wittmer, from the Swiss law firm representing the Russian athletes, said “our clients consider — rightly so — that the decisions are unfair and harmful … their Olympic dreams have been shattered.”

Other athletes welcomed the end to the saga.

“That is great news,” said U.S. women’s skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender, who placed fourth in the Sochi Olympics — one spot behind bronze medallist Elena Nikitina, who was one of the 45 appealing her ban.

U.S. bobsledder Nick Cunningham said “If dirty athletes are taken out, then clean athletes will prevail. That’s what I hope.”

___

AP Sports Writers Stephen Wade, Tim Reynolds and Eddie Pells contributed to this report.

James Ellingworth, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Port Alberni gym puts the art in martial arts

Matt Goodwin, Shay Hebert offer kickboxing at all levels

Crime rate, drug overdoses still rising in Port Alberni

Major Crime Unit investigating drug trafficking files

Port Alberni business community celebrates excellence

Annual community awards portray diversity in Alberni Valley businesses

Port Alberni’s Community Policing office shuts down

Reopening unlikely to happen, says RCMP Insp. Hunter

Port Alberni man reported missing

RCMP are searching for Jacob Anthony Williams, 27

Toronto van attack suspect faces 10 counts of first-degree murder

The suspect in the Toronto van attack that killed 10 people and injured 15 others on Monday is a 25-year-old man named Alek Minassian

Doctor sees healing power in psychedelic plant as Peru investigates death of B.C. man

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of 41-year-old Sebastian Woodroffe

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

$1.18 to $1.58 a litre: Are you paying the most for gas in B.C.?

Gas prices across B.C. vary, with lowest in Vernon and highest in – you guessed it – Metro Vancouver

Inquest set 10 years after B.C. woman shot, left to die

Lisa Dudley, and her partner, Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home in September 2008

B.C. hockey team to retire Humboldt Bronco victim’s number

BCHL’s Surrey Eagles to retire Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 in light of bus tragedy

B.C. Hells Angels invited to rally by anti-SOGI organizer

The Culture Guard group has helped Hells Angels in the past, said its executive director.

B.C. bill aims to keep Indigenous kids in communities, out of care

Changes to Child, Family and Community Service Act could connect MCFD, Indigenous communities

Condo contract rules target B.C. property flippers

Regulations to prevent property transfer tax evasion

Most Read