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Thirty-Two Banned Russian Athletes Race To Find Spots At Winter Olympics

Viktor Ahn
Viktor Ahn

A total of 32 Russian athletes, including six-time gold medalist speed skater Viktor Ahn, have filed appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as they race to find spots at the upcoming Winter Olympics.

The Lausanne-based CAS said in a statement dated February 6 that the parties involved are submitting written documents that a three-person panel is likely to hear on February 7.

The athletes all failed to pass the mandatory International Olympic Committee vetting for Russian athletes -- imposed as a result of Russian doping at the 2014 Olympics -- and weren't invited to the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“The applicants challenge the IOC decision refusing to invite them to participate in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. They request that CAS overturn the IOC decision and allow them to participate in these games as Olympic Athletes from Russia,” the CAS said in the statement.

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 using the name Olympic Athletes from Russia, provided they meet strict guidelines on doping.

In addition to Ahn, the list of 32 includes world cross-country skiing champion Sergei Ustyugov and world biathlon champion Anton Shipulin.

The IOC has not stated why any of the Russians weren't invited, but has said it used a newly available database detailing past doping when deciding on who is eligible for the Winter Olympics competitions, which run from February 7-25.

Meanwhile, Dick Pound, the ex-president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, on February 6 harshly criticized the Olympic response to the Russian doping scandal as weak.

Speaking at an IOC session in Gangneung, South Korea, three days before the Pyeongchang winter games, Pound warned that "we talk more than we walk" and said that the games' credibility had taken a serious hit.

"I believe...the IOC has not only failed to protect clean athletes but has made it possible for cheating athletes to prevail against the clean athletes," said Pound.

Pound also criticized as "perverse" the judgments of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which last week reversed lifetime Olympic bans on 28 Russian athletes and staff.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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