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IOC 'Extremely' Disappointed By Court Lifting Doping Ban On Russians

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach speaks during an interview at a hotel in Pyeongchang on January 31.

The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has described a ruling by the world's top sports court that lifts Olympic doping bans for 28 Russian athletes as "extremely disappointing and surprising."

IOC President Thomas Bach said on February 4 that the committee's executive board was "not satisfied at all" with the approach by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS).

The court’s decision showed there is an "urgent" need to reform the court's internal structure, Bach said.

On February 1, the CAS 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.

Russia says it wants to send 15 of the 28 athletes in the CAS case to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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

Among those that Russia wants to send are gold-medal-winning skeleton slider Aleksandr Tretyakov and cross-country skiing gold-medalist Aleksandr Legkov.

Speaking in Pyeongchang on February 4, Bach said an independent panel will review the Russian cases and make recommendations.

He said he hoped a final decision on them will be made "in the next couple of days."

Russian officials have celebrated the ruling by the 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 majoroty of our athletes are clean athletes."

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

The IOC in December also banned Russia from the Olympics in Pyeongchang, 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.

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