Russian athletes at olympics: sports court says “nyet” to participation

A number of Russian athletes were hoping to compete in Pyeongchang after all. The CAS sports court has rejected their complaint at the last minute.

Still skiing down the mountain, but not in Pyeongchang: Russian biathlete Anton Schipulin Photo: imago/Gepa Pictures

The team, which goes by the acronym OAR, wears black and white. It doesn’t look very nice, and that’s probably how it was intended. On the back of the training jackets it says "Olympic Athlete from Russia". The athletes are not allowed to show the Russian colors, not even to wear the flag when crossing the finish line or on the ice oval. It’s all part of the sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s not-so-clean sports ambassadors in the past.

168 young and possibly doping-free athletes from Russia are in South Korea. More will not. The hopes of a number of Russian athletes such as short tracker Viktor Ahn or biathlete Anton Schipulin for delayed participation were dashed yesterday after a decision by the sports court CAS, which has also established a branch in Pyeongchang at the Winter Games. They were dismissed by CAS, 47 cases on Friday and 13 already on Thursday. The Russians had filed a lawsuit because they had not received an invitation to Pyeongchang from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because of doping violations and doping suspicions.

In its ruling, the CAS considered the non-invitation to be justified. The IOC’s decision was in no way discriminatory or taken in an unfair manner, it said in a statement. The IOC’s creation of an "invitation list" was to be seen as a legitimate process of "eligibility testing," it said. This means that the sports judges from Canada (Carol Roberts), Switzerland (Bernhard Welten) and Australia (Zalie Steggall) have now reached a different verdict to their CAS colleagues on February 1.

There it was still said that 28 Russian athletes could not be proven to have violated the anti-doping guidelines. The IOC had then mocked the CAS decision. IOC chief Thomas Bach had attacked the sports court directly and even held out the prospect of reforming CAS. "We must not get into a situation where the CAS loses its credibility with athletes," Bach said.

Thomas Bach, IOC president

"We must not get into a situation where CAS loses its credibility with athletes"

As it now turns out, Bach’s words have had an effect. The CAS judges in the sense of the IOC. The sensitive issue is off the table at the start of the Games. Of course, the Russian athletes and coaches in their black and white penitential suits don’t find all this so nice. Curling coach Vasily Gudin told the taz at the start of the competitions that it was such a pity that many successful Russian athletes were not there, "so sad". And they don’t even know why.

Those who were put off by the IOC will probably be presented with a replacement Olympics. Vice-government head Vitaly Mutko wants to hold alternative competitions in March for those athletes who were not allowed to participate in the real Winter Games. Victory bonuses would be as high as in Pyeonchang. And foreign athletes would also be invited.