LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Citing insufficient evidence, the Court of Arbitration for Sport nullified on Thursday lifetime Olympic bans for 28 Russian athletes who had been accused of doping, although the decision does not mean those involved would be automatically invited to compete in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the International Olympics Committee said.
CAS also overturned lifetime bans for 11 other Russian athletes accused of tampering with samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games but replaced the punitive measure with a temporary suspension applicable on Feb. 9-25, when the PyeongChang Games in South Korea are set to take place.
“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,” the CAS said in a statement. “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.”
An IOC statement shortly after said this decision threatened the future of the fight against sports doping, adding it would consider appealing the decision to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
It did, however, welcome the ruling in the 11 other cases.
“The confirmation of the Anti-Doping Rule Violations for 11 athletes because of the manipulation of their samples clearly demonstrates once more the existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014,” the statement said.
Among those who had a lifetime ban lifted were cross-country ski gold medalist Alexander Legkov and skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov, while the other 11 athletes include two-time Sochi Olympic bobsleigh champion, Alexander Zubkov.
In December 2017, the IOC decided to bar Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang over alleged violations of banned substance use at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
The IOC said that ban remained in place and in order to compete, Russian athletes would have to be invited by the Olympics body.