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IOC rejects Russian request for Pyeongchang 2018, Bach slams CAS ruling

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has today (Monday) moved against last week’s ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) concerning sanctions imposed on Russian athletes amid the country’s doping scandal by refusing to grant invitations to the 2018 winter Olympic Games to 13 athletes and two coaches.

The CAS on Thursday overturned lifetime bans imposed on 28 Russian athletes by the IOC, along with partially upholding the appeals of a further 11 athletes, citing “insufficient” evidence for the sanctions.

The ruling was announced in Pyeongchang ahead of the start of the 2018 Games on February 9. The CAS delivered its decisions in 39 of the 42 cases filed by Russian athletes against the decisions taken by the Disciplinary Commission of the IOC in relation to the doping scandal surrounding the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics.

Following the investigation performed by Professor Richard McLaren regarding the manipulation of anti-doping procedures during Sochi 2014, the IOC found 43 Russian athletes to have committed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) during the Games, disqualifying them from the events in which they participated in Sochi and forfeiting all medals won by them. The athletes were also declared ineligible to participate in any capacity in all subsequent editions of the Olympic Games.

With respect to the 28 athletes, their appeals were upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 reinstated. In 11 cases, the evidence collected was found to be sufficient to establish an individual ADRV. The IOC decisions in these matters was confirmed, with one exception – the athletes were declared ineligible for Pyeongchang 2018 instead of receiving a life ban from all Olympic Games.

In the wake of Thursday’s ruling, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on Friday requested that the IOC invite 13 athletes and two coaches to Pyeongchang 2018. However, the IOC’s Olympic Athlete from Russia Implementation Group (OAR IG) has rejected this proposal.

In a statement, the IOC said: “While the Invitation Review Panel noted the CAS’s decision of 1 February 2018, it also noted that the full reasoning for these decisions had not been made public. The Panel highlighted that its role, according to the IOC Executive Board decision of 5 December 2017, was not to establish ADRVs, but to confirm that athletes can be considered clean for a potential OAR invitation to the Olympic winter Games PyeongChang 2018. Therefore, the Panel unanimously recommended that the IOC not extend an invitation to the Olympic winter Games PyeongChang 2018 to the 15 individuals requested by the suspended ROC.”

The IOC added that the panel reviewed all 13 athletes submitted by the suspended ROC for OAR invitation places using the same methodology as its initial review of January 16-17. It said: “Following the detailed analysis conducted by the Panel, its members observed that there were additional elements and/or evidence, which could not be considered by the IOC Oswald Commission because it was not available to it, that raised suspicion about the integrity of these athletes.

“The additional information included data from the LIMS database, traces of prohibited substances, evidence of steroid profile manipulation and further confidential information provided to the Panel by Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency). In addition, the Panel agreed that the decision of the CAS had not lifted the suspicion of doping or given the Panel sufficient confidence to recommend to the OAR IG that those 13 athletes could be considered as clean.”

The IOC did not disclose the identity of the those involved in the ROC’s request. However, Russian news agency Tass said they were skeleton racers Maria Orlova (pictured), Aleksandr Tretyakov and Elena Nikitina; cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov, Evgeniy Belov, Maxim Vylegzhanin, Alexander Bessmertnykh, Natalia Matveeva and Yevgeniya Shapovalova; speed skaters Olga Fatkulina and Alexander Rumyantsev; luger Tatiana Ivanova, and coaches Albert Demchenko and Sergei Chudinov.

Today’s decision by the IOC came after president Thomas Bach on Sunday hit out at the CAS ruling, labelling it “extremely disappointing and surprising” while also stating it illustrated the need for reform at CAS.

Speaking at a press conference, Bach said the CAS verdict came as a complete surprise to the IOC, adding that it only knew what was disclosed in the Court’s press statement. He said this was “extremely unsatisfactory given the gravity of the cases”.

“We feel that this decision shows the urgent need for reforms in the internal structure of CAS,” Bach added.