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IOC Won't Invite 15 Previously Banned Russians To Olympics


Cross-country skiing gold-medalist Aleksandr Legkov was one of the athletes Russia had hoped would be able to compete under a neutral flag at this year's Winter Olympics. (file photo)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it will not invite 15 more Russian athletes and coaches whose doping suspensions have been lifted to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The 12 athletes and three coaches were among 28 Russians who had their lifetime bans for doping lifted in a ruling on February 1 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the world's top sports court.

The CAS move overturned the lifetime Olympic bans imposed by the IOC on the 28 Russians, ruling there was "insufficient" evidence that the athletes benefited from a system of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics that were hosted by Russia.

The suspended Russian Olympic Committee had said it wanted to send 15 of the 28 athletes and coaches to the Olympics in Pyeongchang to take part as so-called "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR) under the Olympic flag.

But in a statement issued on February 5, the IOC said its OAR implementation group turned down the request based on a recommendation by the invitation-review panel.

It said the decision was made after the panel "unanimously recommended that the IOC not extend an invitation to the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 to the 15 individuals."

'Extremely Disappointing' Decision

IOC President Thomas Bach had opposed the lifting of the athletes' ban, describing the CAS decision as "extremely disappointing and surprising." He said his group’s executive board was "not satisfied at all" with the court’s approach.

The IOC in December banned Russia from the Olympics, citing its "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the Olympic anti-doping system.

However, the IOC has invited 169 Russians to compete under a neutral flag as OAR competitors, provided they meet strict guidelines on doping.

The IOC decision comes as a major disappointment to Moscow, with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev calling it "unfair and illegal, amoral, and politicized."

Russian officials had celebrated the ruling by CAS as a victory.

The ruling "cannot fail to please us," President Vladimir Putin said on February 1, asserting that "it confirms our position that the overwhelming majority of our athletes are clean athletes."

However, CAS Secretary-General Matthieu Reeb insisted that the ruling did "not mean that these 28 athletes are declared innocent."

Among those that Russia hoped would be able to compete at the Olympics were gold-medal-winning skeleton slider Aleksandr Tretyakov and cross-country skiing gold-medalist Aleksandr Legkov.

The competition officially begins on February 7 with preliminary rounds in biathlon, luge, and ski jumping. The opening ceremony is scheduled for February 9.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa, Interfax
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