Fri, Jul 22, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Russia loses appeal against Olympic ban


Russia yesterday lost its appeal against an Olympic ban on its track and field athletes, a decision which could add pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to exclude the nation entirely from next month’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected the appeal of 68 Russian athletes seeking to overturn the ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) following allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups.

The court, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, upheld the “validity” of the IAAF ban, saying a nation whose national federation is suspended is ineligible from entering international competitions, including the Olympics.

A three-person panel ruled that the Russian Olympic Committee “is not entitled to nominate Russian track and field athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games considering that they are not eligible to participate under the IAAF competition rules.”

However, the CAS said it has no jurisdiction on whether the IOC can accept or refuse the entry of Russian track and field athletes, either those representing their nation or as “neutral athletes.”

Russia argued against a collective ban of its track athletes, saying it punishes those who have not been accused of wrongdoing.

“Today’s judgment has created a level playing field for athletes,” the IAAF said in a statement. “The CAS award upholds the rights of the IAAF to use its rules for the protection of the sport, to protect clean athletes and support the credibility and integrity of competition.”

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said it was “not a day for triumphant statements.”

“I did not come into this sport to stop athletes from competing,” Coe said. “It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude.”

The ruling is likely to weigh heavily on whether the IOC could bar the entire Russia team across all sports following new allegations of a vast government-organized doping program.

Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), on Monday issued a report that accused the Russian Ministry of Sport of orchestrating a vast doping system that affected 28 summer and winter Olympic sports.

The IOC executive board on Tuesday said it would “explore the legal options” for a possible total ban on Russia, but would wait until after the CAS ruling before making a final decision. The IOC has scheduled another executive board meeting on Sunday to discuss the issue.

Had the IAAF ban been thrown out by the CAS and Russian track athletes let back in, that would seemingly have ruled out the IOC imposing a blanket ban. However, with the track ban upheld, the option remains open.

As it stands, the IAAF has approved just two Russians to compete, as “neutral athletes,” after they showed they had been training and living abroad under a robust drug testing regime.

The case dates back to November last year, when the IAAF suspended Russia’s track and field federation following a WADA report that alleged systematic and state-backed doping. The IAAF last month upheld the ban, a decision accepted by the IOC.

In extending the ban, the IAAF said Russia’s entire drug-testing system had been corrupted and tainted, and there is no way to prove which athletes are clean. Letting Russian athletes compete in the Games would undermine the credibility of the competition, the IAAF said.

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