IOC Clashes with CAS Over Russian Doping Scandal Before Games
The Russian doping scandal has been a long and winding road impacting the country’s participation in many international sporting events, including the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. And although some steps have been taken since the Mclaren Reports outlined the scandal, the saga is far from over.
In late November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) instructed the International Ski Federation (FIS) to modify the results of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in light of the doping scandal that rocked Russian sport and resulted in disciplinary measures against six Russian cross-country athletes – Alexander Legkov, Evgeniy Belov, Julia Ivanova, Evgenia Shapovalova, Alexey Petukhov and Maxim Vylegzhanin – including suspension and ineligibility from future Olympic competition.
FIS took a pragmatic, evidence-based approach that has at times been at odds with the IOC, and stated that, based on its own anti-doping protocols, the athletes who are still active would be eligible to compete during the FIS World Cup season and other FIS competitions.
A few days later, on Nov. 27, the IOC sanctioned two biathletes, Sochi 2014 silver medalists Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina and five additional Russian winter-sport athletes including skeleton athlete Sergei Chudino; and two bobsledders, Sochi 2014 gold medalists Aleksei Negodailo and Dmitrii Trunenkov. More meetings were scheduled to determine additional disciplinary measures at the approach to the Pyeongchang Games.
The International Biathlon Union (IBU), in light of the weight of evidence regarding the Russian doping scandal, relegated the Russian Biathlon Union to provisional membership status. The decision was decreed to stand until such time as, after the 2017-2018 competitive season, numerous conditions are met, including the IOC’S lifting of the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
Despite an initial break from the IOC, in early December the FIS Doping Panel finally had the opportunity to review the evidence and conduct its own due diligence and ruled on side with the IOC that there was evidence of the anti-doping rule violation and provisionally suspended the six cross-country athletes, while also allowing them each a personal hearing before reaching a final decision.
Days later, the IOC took even greater steps to deal with the scandal after the findings of the Schmid Commission addressed the full breadth of the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia. This report also addresses in particular the manipulation at the anti-doping laboratory at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games that targeted the Olympic Games directly.
As a result, the IOC announced the suspension of the entire ROC, including any and all officials, coaches and medical doctors of the Russian Olympic Team at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Though dramatic, the IOC did leave open the ability of certain athletes to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics under strict conditions, which led to certain Russian athletes being able to compete in Pyeongchang under the OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia) banner.
What followed was a steady stream of news highlighting notable cross-country skiers and other winter-sport athletes suspected of doping or suffering sanctions.
On Dec. 11, the IOC announced that it suspected three additional Russian athletes of doping violations: Olympic gold medalist Nikita Kriukov, as well as Alexander Bessmertnykh and Natalia Matveeva.
A few weeks later, the IOC made the announcement that it was banning 11 Russian athletes for life and stripping athletes of two more medals won at the Sochi Winter Olympics as a result of doping violations. Cross-country skiers Kriukov and Bessmertnykh both lost their silver medals and were banned for life, along with nine other athletes.
The announcements from the IOC continued even up until a couple of weeks before the Games when two top Russian skiers, cross-country racer Sergey Ustiugov and biathlete Anton Shipulin, were banned. And there were more than a few wrinkles along the way. In late December, the IOC was criticized for cowardly behaviour when it failed to address Russia’s campaign of retaliation against whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former anti-doping official and director of a Moscow laboratory, whose testimony has been at the centre of the entire Russian doping scandal.
Rodchenkov’s testimony is key to the IOC’S case and his lawyer Jim Walden said his client has received death threats while enduring a prolonged campaign to discredit him.
There were also dozens of appeals from Russian athletes who were slated to appear before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to plead their individual cases relating to the doping scandal.
More controversy flared at the top levels of the sport when the CAS overturned the sanctions against 28 Russian athletes on Feb. 1 and reinstated their individual results from Sochi 2014, while upholding the sanctions against 11 Russian athletes. Included in the group of 28 Russian athletes whose sanctions were lifted are cross-country skiers Evgeniy Belov, Alexander Bessmertnykh, Nikita Kriukov, Alexander Legkov, Natalia Matveeva, Alexey Petukhov, Evgenia Shapovalova and Maxim Vylegzhanin.
But the IOC did not accept the findings and barred the athletes cleared by the CAS, declining the Russian Olympic Committee’s request to send 13 active athletes and two coaches to Pyeongchang despite having their suspensions lifted by the CAS.