KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Thomas Bach and the International Olympic Committee have, in effect, thumbed their noses at the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the tangled issue of Russian doping bans.
Last Thursday sport’s supreme court cleared 28 Russian competitors banned by the IOC from competing in the Olympics. Russia then applied for 15 competitors and coaches to join the 169-strong squad competing under the Olympic Athlete of Russia banner at the imminent Winter Games in PyeongChang.
The IOC, however, has defied the judgment of CAS and refused to register the 15. The repercussions within the sports community from the IOC’s defiance could be immense.
Announcement of this decision followed a meeting of the IOC executive board after which Bach said it would study the written judgments before considering an appeal to the Swiss Federal Court.
In the past the IOC, in doping matters, has always considered suspect athletes until proven guilty but apparently it has made an exception in the case of Russians.
Hence the subsequent announcement early today in South Korea that the 13 athletes and two coaches have been refused entry to the Games.
An IOC statement said their cases had been examined individually by one by its own two panels – one led by Valerie Fourneyron, the former French Minister of Sports, the other by Nicole Hoevertsz, a new member of the IOC board.
Fourneyron’s invitation review committee considered that, since the CAS judgment statement had yet to be made public, it “unanimously recommended to the IOC not to extend the invitations to the PyeongChang Games to these 15 people, requested by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) which is itself suspended. ”
The recommendation of the review committee was then rubber0stamped by Hoevertsz’s so-called ‘enforcement group for the Russian Olympic Athletes delegation’.
Two separate CAS panels had reached their verdicts after hearing evidence from various sources including Professor Richard McLaren, who undertook a damning investigation for WADA on events at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games where Russians won 33 medals , including 13 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze.
CAS found “the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes concerned.”
Lack of action
In essence the Bach and the IOC have been caught out for not acting decisively over the Russian doping issue when it exploded into the worldwide public glare ahead of Rio 2016.
Bach had told media: “You can only look into an appeal seriously when you have the reasoned decision, which we do not have. We need the reasoned decision to see whether we have any prospect of success. If we have any such prospect, we will appeal.”
However he conceded that “a review by the Swiss Federal Tribunal has a very limited scope”because it would largely be based on points of law rather than disputes over legal concepts and facts.