Twenty-eight Russian athletes have had their life Olympic doping bans overturned and their results from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi reinstated after their appeals were upheld by sport’s highest tribunal.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it had found insufficient evidence that the 28, banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), were guilty of anti-doping violations in Sochi.
However, the IOC said the athletes remain ineligible to compete in the PyeongChang Games due to the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee, which means Russian athletes may only compete on invitation by the IOC.
“The result of the CAS decision does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the Games,” the IOC said.
“Not being sanctioned (for doping) does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation.”
In making its decision, the CAS also reinstated the results of the athletes in Sochi.
“With respect to these 28 athletes, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 are reinstated,” said the tribunal.
Eleven other athletes were confirmed by the CAS to have committed doping violations and their appeals denied.
However, the CAS reduced their lifetime Olympic bans to a suspension from this year’s Games.
The IOC had previously banned Russia from PyeongChang as a result of its “unprecedented systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system.
The IOC says the confirmation of 11 cases of doping “clearly demonstrates once more the existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014”.
They regretted that CAS “did not take this proven existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system into consideration for the other 28 cases”.
Cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who won gold in the 50 kilometres and silver in 4×10 km, and Alexander Tretyakov, who won gold in the men’s individual skeleton, were among those to be cleared.
Bobsleigh double gold medallist Alexander Zubkov was one of the 11 whose doping offences were confirmed.
Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov said the CAS ruling had restored the “good name” of Russian athletes.
But Jim Walden, lawyer for Russia’s former anti-doping chief-turned whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, slammed the decision.
“This panel’s unfortunate decision provides a very small measure of punishment for some athletes but a complete ‘get out of jail free card’ for most,” he said.
“The CAS decision only emboldens cheaters, makes it harder for clean athletes to win, and provides yet another ill-gotten gain for the corrupt Russian doping system generally, and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin specifically.”
Russia has repeatedly denied any state involvement in state-sponsored doping.