Olympics: Banned Russians' Winter Games plea

Six-time Olympic champion Viktor Ahn is among the 32 Russian athletes who have appealed against their suspensions.
Six-time Olympic champion Viktor Ahn is among the 32 Russian athletes who have appealed against their suspensions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • Korean-born speed skater Viktor Ahn and 31 other Russian athletes launched a last-ditch appeal yesterday against their suspensions from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics following a widespread doping scandal.

Just three days before the start of the Games, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said it opened arbitration proceedings following an urgent request from the 32 athletes.

As well as Ahn, a six-time short-track Olympic champion, the group includes Sochi 2014 biathlon gold medallist Anton Shipulin and Sergei Ustyugov, a cross-country skiing world champion.

"The applicants challenge the IOC decision refusing to invite them to participate in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games," a CAS statement said.

"They request that CAS overturn the IOC decision and allow them to participate in these Games as Olympic Athletes from Russia."

The late appeal will raise hopes that Ahn, who switched allegiance to Russia in 2011 after falling out with South Korea's skating authorities, can make an emotional end to his Olympic career in his native country.

Last week, 28 Russians had life bans from the Olympics overturned by CAS, prompting 15 of them to apply to take part in Pyeongchang.

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to give them invitations to compete in the Games.

"With a huge disappointment, the members of ROC's Athletes' Commission have found out about the decision of IOC's Invitation Review Panel not to invite 13 Russian athletes and two coaches fully acquitted by (the CAS) to 2018 Winter Olympics," Russia's Olympic Athletes Commission said.

"It's surprising that the IOC Commission makes its decisions on the basis of some additional, suspicious, and anonymous information and accounts of one single fraudster", the commission added, referring to whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who is the source of revelations on Moscow's state-sponsored doping.

Russia's team have been banned from Pyeongchang, although 168 "clean" Russian athletes were cleared to take part under a neutral flag as "Olympic Athletes from Russia".

Ahn, 32, Shipulin and Ustyugov were not included on that list, although Stanislav Pozdnyakov, vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee, has insisted they had "never been implicated in any type of doping affair".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2018, with the headline 'Banned Russians' Winter Games plea'. Print Edition | Subscribe