Twenty eight Russian athletes could still take part in this month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport today lifted life bans imposed on them for alleged doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Sport’s top court ruled there was “insufficient” evidence that the 28 athletes out of the 43 that sought the court’s help, had benefited from a system of state-sponsored doping at the last Winter Games, hosted by Russia in Sochi.
CAS said in its judgement: “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.” It added: “The evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said he was “very glad” about the ruling which fell just eight days before the 2018 Olympics begin.
The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia as a team from competing at Pyeongchang over the doping scandal, although 169 Russian athletes have been cleared to take part as neutrals. The Olympic body reacted to the CAS verdict by warning in a statement that “not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation” to the Games. Forty-two Russians bobsleighers, cross-country skiers, competitors in the skeleton and ice hockey players appealed against the bans at CAS. Meanwhile CAS lifted the life bans of another 11 Russians, but barred them from competing at the Pyeongchang Olympics that start on February 9.
Among those whose life bans were scrapped is Alexander Legkov, 34, who won gold in Sochi in the 50-kilometre freestyle cross-country skiing event and silver in the 4×10 kilometre relay, only to have his results annulled over the doping allegations.