8 Feb 2018

Decision on Russian athletes still awaits

10:26 am on 8 February 2018

A decision on whether or not to allow up to 47 Russians to compete at the Winter Olympics may not now come until the day the Pyeongchang games opens.

Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre,  PyeongChang, South Korea.

Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre, PyeongChang, South Korea. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Russians, including a number of Olympic gold medallists, have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to appear at the games as neutrals after they were excluded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Fifteen of them - 13 athletes and two coaches - were among 28 Russians whose Olympic life bans imposed by the IOC over doping practices were overturned by CAS last week.

They appealed to CAS after the IOC refused a Russian request to invite them, a day after a similar appeal was filed by 32 Russian athletes who were not invited in the first place by the IOC.

CAS today adjourned that appeal and said a hearing of its ad hoc division would continue tomorrow, a day before the opening of the games.

The IOC has been given until tomorrow to file written submissions.

When it reconvenes, the CAS ad hoc division will then also hear the appeal of the 15 who appealed today.

A decision is expected on both cases either late Thursday or early Friday, CAS said.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic committee

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic committee Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

IOC president Thomas Bach expressed confidence that the CAS would dismiss the appeals but stopped short of speculating on the outcome after last week's setback for the IOC when CAS nullified the Olympic life bans and Sochi 2014 disqualifications for the 28.

"I think we have good arguments and now the procedure is ongoing so I cannot speculate on the outcome," Bach told a news conference.

Looking at the other 15, the IOC boss insisted this was a different issue because "now it is about whether these athletes enjoy the privilege of being invited to the Olympic Games under the IOC Charter."

Among athletes who have turned to CAS are cross-country gold medallist Alexander Legkov, skeleton gold medallist Alexander Tretiakov, short-track speed skating great Viktor Ahn, world cross-country skiing champion Sergei Ustyugov, world biathlete champion Anton Shipulin, figure skating gold medallist Ksenia Stolbova and short track relay gold medallist Ruslan Zakharov.

The 32 Russians were among those not invited by the IOC following a vetting procedure by its invitation review panel. Those not invited were not necessarily doping offenders, the IOC has said.

However, the vetting took account of a wide-ranging number of criteria from suspicion in connection with doping practices in Russia and at the Sochi 2014 games to information from the restored database of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory.

So far 168 athletes from Russia are expected to compete in South Korea under the OAR name, invited from an original Russian list of 500.