No Winter Games for cleared Russians

IOC not convinced by CAS' move to lift bans on the guilty 15, citing 'additional evidence'

Mascots Soohorang (left) and Bandabi at the entrance of the Woljeongsa Temple in Pyeongchang. The Winter Olympics start on Friday but the International Olympic Committee has barred 15 Russians from competing.
Mascots Soohorang (left) and Bandabi at the entrance of the Woljeongsa Temple in Pyeongchang. The Winter Olympics start on Friday but the International Olympic Committee has barred 15 Russians from competing.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PYEONGCHANG (South Korea) • Fifteen Russians whose life bans for doping were lifted last week have been barred from the Pyeongchang Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said yesterday, as Russia's doping conspiracy continued to reverberate just days before the opening ceremony.

The decision was taken after a special panel "unanimously recommended that the IOC not extend an invitation to the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 to the 15 individuals", a statement said.

"The OAR IG (Olympic Athlete from Russia Implementation Group) confirmed that no additional invitations will be extended to these 15 individuals," the IOC said.

The 15 were among a group of 28 Russians who had been banned for life from the Olympics for doping, but whose suspensions were overturned at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last Thursday.

They included 13 athletes and two former athletes now working as support staff.

The others have either retired or are unavailable for undisclosed reasons.

The IOC has barred Russia from the Pyeongchang Olympics, which open on Friday, over a widespread doping conspiracy.

BACH BACKS BANS

This CAS decision is extremely disappointing and needs a very careful review. We will clearly review it. If we can appeal it, we will appeal it.

THOMAS BACH , International Olympic Committee president, slamming the CAS' decision to lift the life bans on 15 Russians.

But 169 Russians who have passed strict anti-doping protocols will compete under a neutral flag at the Feb 9-25 Games.

Yesterday's announcement came after IOC president Thomas Bach slammed the CAS decision and called for reforms to the independent sports tribunal.

Bach kept up his attack yesterday, telling reporters: "This CAS decision is extremely disappointing and needs a very careful review.

"We will clearly review it. If we can appeal it, we will appeal it."

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has also expressed "serious concern" over the decision by the CAS, which said it had insufficient evidence to leave the bans in place.

Australia's John Coates, president of the court's governing body, said the tribunal would "thoroughly examine" the concerns raised by Bach and would issue details of the decision as soon as possible.

"Athletes are entitled to have confidence in judicial processes at all levels, more particularly before the CAS," Coates said in a statement.

The IOC's Invitation Review Panel, which looked into the cases of the Russians, said it had "additional information" including data from a leaked database which showed "traces of prohibited substances (and) evidence of steroid profile manipulation".

"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 said.

It is the second successive Olympics where the IOC has been embroiled in problems involving Russian doping, after accusations of systemic drug cheating blew up just before Rio 2016.

Russia topped the medals table when it hosted the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

But it later emerged that dirty samples involving its athletes were switched using a "mousehole" in the anti-doping laboratory's wall.

At Rio, the IOC stopped short of banning Russia and instead left the decision on their participation up to individual sports federations, creating some confusion in the build-up to the Games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2018, with the headline 'No Winter Games for cleared Russians'. Subscribe