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Court Rulings Lifting Doping Sanctions On 28 Russian Athletes To Be Appealed


Russian cross-country skier Aleksandr Legkov races during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it plans to appeal rulings by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that lifted doping sanctions the committee had imposed on 28 Russian athletes.

The Olympic body is "unsatisfied both by the decision and the motivation" of verdicts issued in February by the Swiss-based court, and will appeal the cases to Switzerland's supreme court, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said on May 3 in Lausanne, where the IOC's executive board was meeting.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal can overturn verdicts issued by the sports court if the legal process was abused, but such appeals rarely succeed, officials said.

IOC President Thomas Bach acknowledged that the committee had only a small chance of winning its appeal of the Russian cases, but he said an appeal was needed to "protect clean athletes" who do not use drugs.

"If there is a slim chance, let's seize it," he said.

Days before the Pyeongchang Winter Games in February, two judging panels on the sports court upheld the appeals of 28 Russian athletes against IOC sanctions that included Olympic lifetime bans and being stripped of any medals won during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The court said the IOC's investigations in those cases did not prove doping offenses, but its rulings stopped short of declaring the 28 athletes innocent of the doping charges against them. Most were accused of taking part in a state-orchestrated doping scheme in Sochi.

Russian officials hailed the sport court's rulings, but Olympic leaders said they were irritated by them and claimed the court mistakenly applied the exacting burden of proof on their decisions that would be required in a criminal case.

Sports law in a civil court typically requires only that cases be proven to the "comfortable satisfaction" of judges, Olympic officials said.

While lifting sanctions on dozens of athletes, the sport court confirmed the doping sanctions imposed on 11 Russian Olympic competitors who also had made urgent appeals of their cases in hopes of joining the Pyeongchang Games.

The IOC had rushed the Russian doping cases through disciplinary hearings late last year in an effort to complete action before the Pyeongchang Games started.

In all, the committee disqualified 43 Russian athletes based on doping offenses that it said occurred during the Sochi Olympics.

The doping sanctions were based on evidence presented by the World Anti-Doping Agency; its designated investigator into Russian doping matters, Richard McLaren; and Russian whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, a former director of drug-testing laboratories in Moscow and Sochi.

The sport court judges found flaws in the evidence-gathering and conclusions of the IOC's star witness, Rodchenkov, who testified from a secret location in the United States, where he is in an FBI witness-protection program.

Among those whose medals were reinstated by the court was Russian cross-country skier Aleksandr Legkov, the gold medalist in the 50-kilometer freestyle race and the silver medalist in the 4x10-kilometer relay at the Sochi Games.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa
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