PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: Dozens of Russians implicated in doping lost a last-minute court bid to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Friday, prompting relief among rivals but fury in Moscow.
Just hours before the opening ceremony, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the cases of 47 Russians who wanted to overturn a decision not to invite them to take part.The court decision was quickly welcomed by the International Olympic Committee, which said it “brings clarity for all athletes”, and the World Anti-Doping Agency. However, the Kremlin expressed regret over the rejection of the late appeal.
“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.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is banned by the IOC, railed against the decision and said CAS had come under “pressure” from the International Olympic Committee.The Russians, including Korean-born star speed skater Victor An, had asked CAS to reverse an IOC decision not to invite them to compete as neutrals.
The Russians also lodged a further case with a Swiss civil court in Lausanne, where the IOC is headquartered, in a final bid to compete in South Korea.But in a dramatic turnaround, the athletes withdrew that appeal, although the court gave no reason why.
Russia’s team is banned after the emergence of systemic drug cheating. But the IOC allowed a large group of Russians deemed clean to take part as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.The team of Russian athletes stands at 168, the fourth biggest contingent at the Games. Russian competitors marched behind a neutral Olympic flag at Friday’s opening ceremony.
A spokesman for the Olympic Athletes from Russia told AFP: “It’s a pity the Russian delegation is not bigger.”Russian figure skater Evgenia Tarasova said: “It is sad, of course.”However, the IOC hailed the CAS decision and WADA president Craig Reedie called it “welcome news for WADA... for athletes and all others worldwide that care for clean sport”.
The Russian saga has proved highly contentious in the build-up to Pyeongchang. On Thursday, reports emerged of an altercation between a Canadian and a Russian at the athletes’ village.