Russia and Vladimir Putin joyous after IOC bans are overturned
Cas decision to overturn 28 bans returns country to top of Sochi 2014 medal table
Alexander Tretiakov in action at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty
Russia has hailed a decision by the court of arbitration for sport to overturn Olympic doping bans on 28 of the country’s athletes, with the sports ministry declaring that “justice has finally triumphed”.
Cas ruled on Thursday morning that there was insufficient evidence that 28 Russians, including several medallists, had broken anti-doping rules at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
“This, of course, cannot but give us joy,” Vladimir Putin said. “It confirms our position on the fact that the vast majority of our athletes are clean.”
On Tuesday the Russian president had admitted that some Russian athletes had been involved in doping, but he portrayed allegations of a state-sponsored doping programme at the 2014 Sochi Games as a politically motivated attack on Russia by western countries.
Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told Interfax: “We insisted from the very start that our athletes are not involved in any doping schemes, and, of course, we are now just happy that their honest name has been reinstated by court and all their awards have been returned to them.”
A total of 43 Russians were given life bans from the Olympics after an International Olympic Committee (IOC) investigation into allegations of state-sponsored Russian doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics. The ruling was based largely on evidence from the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov, who detailed an alleged scheme involving the FSB security service.
The appeals of 11 other Russian athletes were upheld by Cas on Thursday, but their life bans were reduced to a ban from the upcoming Pyeongchang Games alone.
The court’s ruling on the 28 athletes reinstates their results at the 2014 Olympics, returning Russia to the top of the Sochi medals chart. Those whose medals will be returned to them include skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov and cross-country ski gold medalist Alexander Legkov.
Tretiakov told Russian media that he had been training and was ready to compete at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, which begin next week. Although Russia is banned from the 2018 Games, over 150 Russians are to take part as neutral athletes.
Mikhail Degtyarev, chairman of the Russian parliament’s sports committee, urged the athletes whose bans were overturned on Thursday to take IOC to court for slander and to “defend their honour”.
Match TV, a Kremlin-funded sport channel, celebrated the court’s decision by broadcasting in full the almost two-hour-long men’s 50km freestyle cross-country skiing competition from the Sochi Olympics, at which Russia swept the podium. The TV channel also described the ruling as a “bang on the nose” for the IOC.
“I’m happy like I’ve won that medal again,” Yelena Nikitina, whose bronze medal for the women’s skeleton at Sochi was reinstated, told the Sport Express newspaper. “We were waiting for this decision for a long time. This was a normal court and not some kind of incomprehensible committee. This time they took facts into account and not speculation.”