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Russians in last-gasp appeal for Pyeongchang inclusion

Thirty-two Russian athletes filed appeals earlier today (Tuesday) to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a last-ditch attempt to salvage their place at the winter Olympic Games, which start this Friday in Pyeongchang.

The athletes have all been barred from the Games after failing to pass the International Olympic Committee’s mandatory vetting process, which has been imposed after the Russian team was blocked from competing in Pyeongchang due to a widespread doping scandal.

Athletes that have been able to prove their innocence will participate under the banner ‘Olympic athletes from Russia’. So far, 168 have been cleared to compete.

CAS is likely to hear the case tomorrow, with top names such as short-track speedskating star Viktor An (pictured), world cross-country skiing champion Sergei Ustyugov and world biathlon champion Anton Shipulin among those to have lodged appeals. According to the Associated Press news agency, the 32 athletes have also filed appeals in the Swiss courts.

Last week, 28 Russians had life bans from the Olympics overturned by CAS. Fifteen of those athletes applied to participate in the 2018 Games, but they have not received invitations from the IOC.

CAS said last week that there was “insufficient evidence” that the athletes had violated doping rules following an investigation by the IOC into the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics.

IOC member Denis Oswald, who led the commission investigating the doping allegations, said yesterday: “It was a shock as we felt the evidence we presented was strong enough to justify the sanctions we had taken. I have difficulty explaining it because I don’t understand it myself.”