IOC holds firm on 15 Russian doping bans despite CAS ruling
Athletes among group of 28 whose suspensions were overturned on Thursday
By Stephen Wade, Associated Press
The International Olympic Committee on Monday rejected a request to invite 15 Russians to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, just days after the athletes' doping bans were overturned by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The 13 active athletes and two retired athletes working in support roles were among 28 athletes whose bans were overturned by CAS on Thursday. The ban on 11 other Russians was upheld.
Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev denounced the IOC move as "shameful."
"This decision is unfair, unlawful, amoral and politically charged," Medvedev said on Facebook.
Former Canadian Olympic hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser told CBC News that the overturning of suspensions is a disappointment and "real disservice to athletes."
Elected to the IOC's athletes commission in 2014, the six-time Olympian remained confident all 28 athletes won't be invited to compete in Pyeongchang and that the best statement is to stay strong on the IOC's decision.
"We had an athletes commission meeting [on the weekend]. A lot of the athletes were vocal and on the same page," Wickenheiser said. "We believe that the CAS decision was wrong. I think it's time for us … to be a little bit more proactive. That's something I think the athletes commission has failed to do in the past."
Wickenheiser added she's heard from athletes to boycott the closing ceremony if the Russians walk, to petitions, to just general frustration.
She also backed the words of Canadian lawyer Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the IOC, who last month criticized the Olympic body for neglecting to punish Russia strongly enough.
"His questions were many of our questions and our concerns," she said. "I admire him for stepping up and being an advocate for clean sport, even if it ruffles a lot of feathers."
The IOC said as-yet unpublished new evidence — not examined in the CAS process — gave rise to new doping suspicions about the 15 Russians. The Kremlin argued the CAS decision meant the 15 should be treated as clean.
"We very much regret it. We expected that the CAS decision would dispel all suspicions against the athletes," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "We're convinced that the CAS ruling has proved that such suspicions had no grounds."
In a statement Monday, the IOC said part of its ruling was because "the full reasoning for these decisions had not been made public" by CAS.
The IOC said "the decision of the CAS had not lifted the suspicion of doping, or given the panel sufficient confidence to recommend ... those 13 athletes could be considered as clean."
The IOC said the two coaches "should not be considered for an invitation" because of previous evidence available to the IOC.
The IOC did not name the athletes, but Russian officials have said they include two gold-medal winners from the 2014 Sochi Olympics — cross country skier Alexander Legkov and skeleton athlete Alexander Tretiakov. They join dozens of other Russians who haven't been convicted of any doping offenses but failed to pass the IOC vetting for an invitation.
The ruling by the sports court was a blow to the IOC and has shifted some of the focus away from Friday's opening of the Games in frigid South Korea with about 3,000 athletes participating.
On Sunday, IOC president Thomas Bach called the CAS ruling "extremely disappointing and surprising," and said the Olympic body needed to see the "reasoned decisions" from the sport court. The court had said those might not be ready until the end of the month.
"The IOC, we would never have expected this," Bach said as uncertainty lingers over the Russian athletes. "We feel that this decision shows the urgent need for reforms in the internal structure of CAS.
"We only know about the reasons from a very few sentences in a press release," Bach added. "So far the panel was not able to produce a reasoned decision which we are eagerly waiting for."
John Coates, an IOC member and also president of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport, tried to assure Bach the judicial reasoning would be forthcoming.
"The reasoned decisions in high profile cases are critically important," Coates said. "We look forward to their publication as soon as possible."
The IOC has invited 169 Russians to compete in Pyeongchang as "Olympic Athletes from Russia" under a neutral flag, but has said it reserves the right to review and appeal the CAS decision.
With files from CBC Sports