Sports Tribunal Overturns Lifetime Bans For Doping Against 28 Russian Athletes
Updated 1:35 p.m. ET
A special tribunal based in Switzerland has overturned lifetime Olympic bans for 28 Russian athletes accused of doping and reinstated their results from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) based in Lausanne, which has jurisdiction over anti-doping violations, said "the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation ... was committed by the athletes concerned."
"With respect to these 28 athletes, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 are reinstated," the tribunal said.
Among the reinstated athletes are two Sochi gold medalists — cross-country skier Alexander Legkov and skeleton medalist Alexander Tretiakov.
Eleven others saw their doping convictions confirmed, but their sentences reduced. Instead of a lifetime ban, they will be barred only from competing in this month's Winter Games at Pyeongchang.
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that it "regrets very much" that the decision did not take "proven existence of systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system into consideration for the other 28 cases."
The CAS said its mandate was "not to determine generally whether there was an organized scheme allowing the manipulation of doping control samples," but instead to look at the 39 cases individually.
The IOC warned that "this may have a serious impact on the future fight against doping," saying it was considering an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the tribunal's decision "confirms that active efforts to protect their rights in courts and in other ways are justified, they can be effective and they must continue," according to CNN.
The International Olympic Committee banned Russia from participating in Pyeongchang over what it determined to have been rampant, state-sponsored cheating at the 2014 Games. However, the IOC has allowed individual athletes to participate if they "pass strict scrutiny, and instead of wearing their nation's uniform ... compete under the title 'Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR),' " NPR's Bill Chappell reported in December.
After the CAS decision, the IOC stressed that it "does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the games."
The panels' decision also impacts another group of athletes: Those who were expecting to expecting to belatedly receive medals as a result of the Russian doping violations.
Katie Uhlaender, a U.S. skeleton racer, was next in line to receive a medal after Sochi bronze medalist Elena Nikitina was banned. Today, CAS ruled that there was insufficient evidence against Nikitina.
"I can say without a doubt, the integrity of sport is on the line," Uhlaender said, according to CBC. "And I'm looking to the leaders of a movement to do something to save it."
USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele tells the broadcaster that he is encouraging the team to stay focused as they prepare to compete in South Korea: "We can't let this take away what is right about the sport."
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