Just days before the 2016 Olympics are set to begin, some 250 Russian athletes who thought they had been cleared to compete in Rio de Janeiro have discovered they still face one final hurdle.
All Russian athletes must now be cleared by a new International Olympic Committee (IOC) panel that has been created to review each athlete's case and determine whether they have met strict new IOC rules imposed after revelations of a state-sponsored doping program in Russia.
No Russian athlete can compete at the Rio Olympics unless given final approval by the three-member IOC panel, which was created on July 30 during an IOC meeting in Rio dealing with the fallout from Russia's doping scandal.
On July 24, the IOC opted against a complete ban on all Russian athletes after an independent investigation revealed evidence of a state-backed Russian doping program involving athletes in many sports.
The IOC has faced criticism for passing the decisions to the international federation of each sport. Senior officials from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have complained that the IOC set a bad precedent.
They argued that the evidence WADA had uncovered and compiled about a systemic Russian government-sponsored doping program, along with efforts by Russian state officials to cover up doping violations by Russian athletes, should have been dealt with by imposing a blanket ban against all Russian athletes.
The new IOC panel is seen as a response to that criticism and a way to show that the IOC has the final word in the matter.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams says the new panel will issue its final decisions before the opening ceremony on August 5.
Out of 387 athletes named to the Russian team, at least 117 already have been banned by the international federations of their sports.
A depleted team of about 250 Russians who thought they had been cleared by their federations have already traveled to Rio de Janeiro, where they now await the IOC panel's final rulings.
Those athletes traveled on a chartered flight from Moscow on July 28 after meeting at the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin complained during the send-off ceremony that the ban on nearly the entire Russian track-and-field team -- a total of 67 athletes -- was “indiscriminate” and “pure discrimination.”
The president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Aleksandr Zhukov, continues to insist that there has never been a state-financed doping program in Russia.