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Rio Olympics 2016: Russia fails to overturn athlete ban

A decision to ban Russian track and field athletes from Rio 2016 over the country’s alleged state-sponsored doping regime has been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Rio Olympics 2016: Russia fails to overturn athlete ban for next month's Games
Rio Olympics 2016: Russia fails to overturn athlete ban for next month’s Games

Russia’s athletics federation was suspended by the sport’s world governing body, the IAAF, after an independent report found evidence of widespread doping.

The Russian Olympic Committee and 68 athletes appealed against that decision but after hearing evidence from both sides, Cas has ruled the ban can stand.

Separately, the International Olympic Committee is considering calls to ban all Russian competitors across all sports from the Olympic Games following a second report into state-sponsored doping.

“The Cas panel confirmed that the ROC 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,” a spokesman said.

The IAAF said it was “pleased Cas has supported its position”, saying the judgement had “created a level playing field for athletes”.

IAAF president, Lord Coe, added: “This is not a day for triumphant statements. I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing.

“Beyond Rio, the IAAF taskforce will continue to work with Russia to establish a clean safe environment for its athletes so that its federation and team can return to international recognition and competition.”

The end of the road for Russia’s athletes?

Despite the ban, the IAAF had previously said a handful of the country’s athletes could compete in Rio as neutrals if they meet a number of criteria, including being repeatedly tested outside their homeland.

At least two Russian athletes – 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova and long jumper Darya Klishina – have already taken advantage of that decision and the Cas ruling has cleared the way for more to follow.

Cas said the ROC would still be able to nominate “Russian track and field athletes who fulfil the criteria” to compete as neutrals at the Games.

But a Cas spokesman added the panel had “expressed concerns” that the short timeframe “left no possibility for the athletes to comply with the criteria”.

The Games begin on 5 August.

Why were Russian athletes banned?

Russia was suspended from global track and field events by the IAAF in November 2015.

That followed the publication of an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report that showed a culture of widespread, state-sponsored doping, with even the secret services involved.

The country’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, has since apologised for the fact cheating athletes were not caught by Russia’s anti-doping systems but stopped short of admitting the scandal had been state-sponsored.

However, another Wada-commissioned report delivered earlier this week – the McLaren report – contained more allegations and suggested senior figures in Russia’s sports ministry were complicit in an organised doping cover-up, with secret service agents even involved in swapping positive urine samples for clean ones. It implicated the majority of Olympic sports in the cover-up.

Following that report, the International Olympic Committee faced calls to ban all Russian competitors from the Olympic Games. It held an emergency meeting on Tuesday but said it would wait for Thursday’s judgement from Cas and look at all the legal option before announcing any sanctions.

It will hold a second emergency meeting on Sunday.

How has Russia responded?

The Russian authorities have already suggested that they will look at ways to continue legal action.

Following the ruling, sports minister Mutko said the Cas decision had set “a certain precedent” by punishing a collective group for doping offences by individuals.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added: “The principle of collective responsibility cannot be acceptable. The news is not very good.” BBC Sport

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