PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games : It is no for Russian athletes, coaches

All those Russian athletes, coaches and officials banned by the International Olympic Committee in December last year, cannot participate in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Ad Hoc Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sports, announced today.

Dismissing separate appeals filed by group of Russian athletes and coaches against the ban order of the International Olympic Committee, the CAS Ad Hoc Division, that held emergency hearings during last two days, held that it was the prerogative of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide the eligibility criteria for participation in Olympic Games.

With just few hours to go for the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, 47 Russian athletes. and coaches who moved the Ad Hoc Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport(CAS) in PyeongChang, went disappointed when the final verdict came at a crowded Press Conference this morning.

So curtains have been rung down on the Russian hopes of getting its banned athletes and officials from participation in the ensuing edition of Winter Olympics.

The decision was overwhelmingly welcomed by various Olympic Committees, including Canadian Olympic Committee. The COC President, Tricia Smith, expressing her happiness over the latest CAS ruling held that “Cleaner athletes” must be protected and all should welcome efforts to keep sports “clean”,

The Russian athletes and coaches challenged the decision of the International Olympic Committee not to invite them for the ensuing edition of the Winter Olympic Games. The IOC found these athletes guilty of violating the doping controls at the last edition of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014.

It is pertinent to mention here that the CAS has set up two ad hoc offices here, including one to monitor doping by athletes during the ensuing games.

The CAS opened four arbitration procedures following four separate urgent applications filed by the Russian athletes (the Applicants) against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (the Respondent).

The first group of applicants while challenging the IOC decision refusing to invite them to participate in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games want the CAS overturn the IOC decision and allow them to participate in these Games as Olympic Athletes from Russia.

The applicants were Victor Ahn, Vladimir Grigorev, Anton Shipulin, Evgeniy Garanichev, Ruslan Murashov, Ekaterina Shikhova, Sergei Ustyugov, Ksenia Stolbova, Ekaterina Urlova-Percht, Maksim Tcvetkov, Irina Uslugina, Yulia Shokshueva, Daria Virolainen, Dmitri Popov, Roman Koshelev, Mikhail Naumenkov, Alexei Bereglasov, Valeri Nichushkin, Anton Belov, Sergei Plotnikov, Evgeniya Zakharova, Ruslan Zakharov, Anna Iurakova, Alexey Esin, Yulia Skokova, Elizaveta Kazelina, Sergey Gryaztsov, Ivan Bukin, Denis Arapetyan, Artem Kozlov, Gleb Retivikh, Alexey Volkov.

The Panel of arbitrators constituted to adjudicate the Russians appeal comprised of Ms Carol Roberts (Canada), President; Mr Bernhard Welten (Switzerland), arbitrator, and Ms Zali Steggall (Australia) arbitrator

The parties exchanged written submissions and a hearing was held for two days.

Subsequently three more appeals were filed by affected group of 15, five and two athletes against the IOC ban order. Separate panels of Arbitrators were constituted and hearings went on till late last evening.

A day before the appeals were filed, the CAS chief John Coates issued a statement saying that Athletes are entitled to have confidence in judicial processes at all levels, more particularly before the CAS.

“CAS has heard the comments of IOC President, Thomas Bach, and acknowledges the concerns raised which CAS will thoroughly examine.

“The reasoned decisions in high profile cases are critically important. The Panels in the cases of the 39 Russian athletes are working on them, and we look forward to their publication as soon as possible.

“CAS will continue to evolve to ensure consistency and quality of jurisprudence, ” John Coates, President, International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), said in his statement.

After allegations were made that the Russian athletes manipulated and violated Doping controls during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, a team led by Professor McLaren held the investigations and held that 43 Russian athletes who committed anti-doping rule violations during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, be disqualified them from the events in which they participated in Sochi and forfeit all medals won by them. The athletes were also declared ineligible to participate in any capacity in all subsequent editions of the Olympic Games. At the end of December 2017, all but one of the athletes (Maxim Belugin, a bobsleigh athletes ) filed an appeal at the CAS.

A CAS procedure was opened for each individual athlete. Arbitral panels were constituted for each procedure and were composed of Prof. Christoph Vedder (Germany), President, Dr Dirk-Reiner Martens (Germany), and Dr Hamid Gharavi (France/Iran) for one group of procedures and Prof. Michael Geistlinger (Austria) for the second group of procedures. The remaining procedures, involving 3 biathletes, have been suspended and will be heard after the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

The procedures were conducted jointly on an expedited basis and a combined hearing took place from 22 to 27 January 2018 in Geneva. Every athlete attended the hearing, except two who were not available, and were heard individually. Several experts and fact witnesses, such as Dr Grigory Rodchenkov and Prof. Richard McLaren, testified during the hearing.

Both CAS panels unanimously found that the evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case. In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) 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.

In 11 cases, the evidence collected was found to be sufficient to establish an individual ADRV. The IOC decisions in these matters are confirmed, with one exception: the athletes are declared ineligible for the next edition of the Olympic Winter Games (i.e. Pyeongchang 2018) instead of a life ban from all Olympic Games.

This review decision caused ripples and there was strong criticism. Even the IOC chief and others assailed the CAS review orders maintaining that those found guilty of violating doping controls earlier could not be allowed back into the Olympic family