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Ruling On Russian Athletes Expected Hours Before Olympics Open


Curling competition helped open the Winter Olympics in South Korea on February 8.

A decision on appeals by Russian athletes seeking to compete at the Winter Olympics in South Korea will be issued hours before the opening ceremony on February 9, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) says.

The sports court said the ruling will be issued at 11 a.m. local time, nine hours before the ceremony begins.

"When further information is available you will be informed," CAS Secretary-General Matthieu Reeb told reporters in Pyeongchang on February 8.

In December, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Russia from competing as a team the Winter Olympics, citing what it said was the state's "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the Olympic antidoping system at the 2014 Sochi games.

CAS has been assessing several appeals filed by Russians after the IOC invited 169 carefully screened Russian athletes to compete as independents in Pyeongchang.

The Russian athletes must meet strict guidelines on doping to compete, and will do so under a neutral flag and the designation "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR).

CAS has already upheld the appeals of 28 athletes, citing insufficient evidence against them. The IOC has refused to invite them, saying the evidence was there and criticizing the sports court.

IOC President Thomas Bach said on February 4 that the CAS decision lifting the bans on 28 Russian athletes was "extremely disappointing and surprising."

At least two more Russian coaches and 58 Russian athletes are hoping to overturn the IOC ban.

CAS is also handling appeals of Russians, including Olympic champion skater Viktor Ahn, who had not been named in the doping investigations or had any prior doping offenses but were still not invited due to doping suspicions by the IOC.

Should they win their appeals, it could force the IOC to offer invites allowing them to compete as OAR athletes, although some have said they still would not participate because they have not been in training.

Sergei Parkhomenko, the head of Russia's Bobsled Federation, said athletes from his team were training in Siberia, but would travel immediately to South Korea if CAS approves their appeal.

"We're hoping for a fair and logical decision from the court," he said. "If there's a positive ruling, they'll fly in.”

In a related development, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has blamed underfunding for sports seeming to be losing ground to doping and cheating.

Craig Reedie told a news conference in Pyeongchang, "we are 50 percent underfunded in terms of what everyone wants us to do."

Reedie said WADA's annual budget was about $30 million, and voiced hope to see a 50 percent increase in the next several years.

Meanwhile, athletes from Russia competing under the Olympic flag made their debut in the Olympics, losing in a curling match to a U.S. team.

The U.S. brother-and-sister mixed-doubles curling team of Matt and Becca Hamilton early on February 8 defeated the husband-and-wife team of Aleksandr Krushelnitsky and Anastasia Bryzgalova 9-3 at the Pyeongchang games in South Korea.

The match was the first competition of the Olympics, which will officially get under way on February 9 with the opening ceremonies. The games will run through February 25.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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