Winter Olympics: Kremlin 'regrets' CAS decision to turn down appeals by Russian athletes

47 Russians implicated in doping lost their court bid to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, just hours before the opening ceremony. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - The Kremlin said on Friday (Feb 9) that it regretted the rejection of a last-minute appeal by dozens of its athletes to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

"We regret this. We are taking this decision into consideration... and undoubtedly, we will continue to help athletes to stand up for their rights," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists after the ruling by the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for Sport.

"Now the main thing is to support our athletes: both those who remained in our country and those who went to (South) Korea and will compete there," Peskov added.

On Friday, 47 Russians implicated in doping lost their court bid to take part in the Pyeongchang Olympics, just hours before the opening ceremony.

The applicants, who included Seoul-born speed skater Viktor Ahn, had asked the CAS to overturn an International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision not to invite them to the Games.

The Russian Olympic Committee expressed "extreme regret" at the ruling.

In a statement, it said "the athletes and the world sporting community as a whole still does not know the concrete reasons why such leaders of world sport as (biathlon gold medallist) Anton Shipulin, Viktor Ahn and (cross-country skiing world champion) Sergei Ustyugov did not receive invitations to the games."

Earlier on Friday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko claimed that the court was under pressure from Olympic officials when it rejected the bid.

"It's difficult for CAS to make decisions against the backdrop of an earlier pressure," Mutko told Interfax news agency, referring to objections from the IOC.

Mutko, who was the Minister of Sport from 2008-2016, said if the Russian athletes implicated in doping had been allowed to take part in the Games now, "it would have caused shock".

He said the IOC had in place "opaque, controversial" procedures to decide who attends the Games and who does not.

Mutko said this created an impression that the Games had turned into "a private party and there are a lot of attendance criteria".

The IOC was swift to welcome the decision, the latest twist in the Russian doping scandal, saying the ruling "supports the fight against doping and brings clarity for all athletes".

The Russian situation has proved highly contentious in the build-up to Pyeongchang, after their team was banned.

But a certain number of "clean" Russian athletes were allowed to take part as neutrals.

However, the CAS decision may not be the end of the matter.

A source close to the IOC told AFP that the 47 Russians have also lodged a case with a Swiss civil court in Lausanne.

Russia's suspension in December follows the uncovering of systemic doping that reached its peak at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, where host nation Russia topped the medals table.

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