IOC Clashes with CAS Over Rus­sian Dop­ing Scan­dal Be­fore Games

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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.

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