Court hears Russian athletes’ appeals

READY OR NOT::While the head of the Russian Bobsled Federation said his athletes were ready to fly to South Korea, others might not participate even if allowed to do so


Fri, Feb 09, 2018 - Page 16

Last-ditch appeal hearings started yesterday for Russian athletes seeking admission to the Pyeongchang Olympics, one day before the opening ceremony, as the total number of appeals hit 60.

The first competitions of the Games — including a US-Russia curling match — had already started when the Court of Arbitration for Sport resumed its hearings at a luxury resort in the mountains near Pyeongchang.

The cases being heard concern 45 Russian athletes and two coaches, but the court yesterday said it would also hear new Russian cases involving six athletes and seven support staff.

In attendance for the hearing are Elena Nikitina, the 2014 bronze medalist in women’s skeleton, and Tatiana Ivanova, a luger who won silver in the team event in 2014.

On her way to the hearing, Nikitina said she was optimistic about winning the case.

Asked if she would fight to the end, she said: “Yes, that’s what we’re doing.”

The Russians are seeking to overturn the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to invite them to the Games. If they win, it would force the committee to accept athletes it considers to be linked to doping offenses.

The committee would not comment on individual cases, but said its invitation process was based on evidence from a newly obtained Moscow laboratory database detailing doping in previous years.

Other athletes whose cases are to be heard include Viktor Ahn, a six-time Olympic gold medalist in short-track speedskating, and Alexander Legkov, a cross-country skiing gold medalist.

Russian Bobsled Federation general secretary Sergei Parkhomenko said athletes from his team were training in Siberia, ready to fly to South Korea at a moment’s notice if the court gives them the green light.

“We’re hoping for a fair and logical decision from the court,” Parkhomenko said. “If there’s a positive ruling, they’ll fly in.”

Russian officials and athletes have indicated that not all of those who have filed appeals plan to compete if they win. Some are reportedly no longer in training, while others might not be included on full rosters in sports such as hockey.

The six athletes who filed an appeal yesterday include two world champion speedskaters, Denis Yuskov and Pavel Kulizhnikov, as well as athletes from biathlon and ski jumping.

All six were originally refused invitations to compete by the committee. All have previously served bans of various lengths for failed doping tests.

The committee had said it would not invite athletes previously banned for doping.

The court had previously said it did not plan to hear their case until after the Olympics.