IOC failed. Another 28 Russian athletes to go to the Olympics?
CAS cancelled the ‘‘sentence’’ of Russian athletes
''28 Russians with Lifetime Olympic Bans Recognised Clean and Rehabilitated!'', ''Legkov and others exculpated!'' Russian mass media was full of such titles on 1 February. Realnoe Vremya's sports staff found out what it meant and how the events would develop.
What athletes had to go through
The fact that almost 40 Russian athletes besides Victor Ahn and Anton Shipulin were imposed a lifetime Olympic ban took a back seat behind the noisy scandal that followed the mysterious and unclear suspension of these two athletes from the upcoming Olympics. The results of the IOC commission's research chaired by Denis Oswald reached so absurd and draconian methods that sometimes one couldn't believe at times that it really happened.
Such important names for Russian sport as Legkov and Vylegzhanin (skiing), Tretyakov and Nikitina (skeleton), bobsledder Kasyanov with his crew, Ivanova (luge) and many other honourable athletes – those who weren't going to end their career and were to prepare for Pyeongchang – were offered to be added to the ''wall of shame'' (and take their Sochi medals away). And it's obvious that even in case of a general ''amnesty'' of the athletes, all this ''process'' catastrophically ruined their gradual preparation for the Games. If all these athletes continued training, they didn't do it in a psychological state in which one should prepare for the most important competition in life.
The Russian athletes have defended their truth in the CAS almost since the beginning of the year, during all January, on a daily basis (in addition, they did it on their own, no one mentioned any defence of functionaries).
The Russians were heard in Lausanne every day (by the way, it's a reply to those who claim that the western legal system has a biased attitude to the Russians). The very accuser in the person of Grigory Rodchenkov appeared in the Swiss court only virtually via Skype, but with his voice was changed and the face was covered. It might seem such taking a stand at least doesn't pretend to be true.
However, the ''accuser'' said nothing new, again the same scratches on test tubes, the same high salt level in samples. But the Russian ''defendants'' prepared well. All procedural rules were considered. And what happened on 1 February when the case's outcome was announced became a surprise for Russian fans too who believe in global conspiracy and, of course, for WADA with the IOC that didn't question their decisions at any time. According to the same director of the International Olympic Committee, the Russians shouldn't complain that just 169 athletes were allowed to the Games but almost thank its structure that they were provided with an opportunity to send young and prospective athletes instead of the strongest.
''The final invited list will consist of clean athletes, so that neither Russia nor the Olympic movement will have to face any negative surprises,'' claimed Thomas Bach after announcing the list of the invited Russians to the Olympics. According to him, every case was carefully checked. So in the end, Russia should appreciate such an opportunity.
The decision they made in December is a kind of balance. The IOC wanted to ''give clean Russian athletes the opportunity to participate, and give a young and new generation of clean Russian athletes the opportunity to be at the Olympic Games and be ambassadors for a new clean Russian sport,'' Bach assured on 25 January.
Whom we managed to ''win''?
On 1 February, the decision in the CAS was made on 39 Russian athletes. The lifetime ban of all 39 athletes was lifted. In addition, 28 Russian Olympians were completely exculpated and reinstated. And, consequently, they get they Sochi medals back! The most important thing today is that all exculpated athletes have the full right to take part in the upcoming Korean Olympics. Another question is whether they will be invited.
Skiers Anton Legkov, Aleksey Petukhov, Nikita Kryukov and Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, skeleton sliders Sergey Chudinov, Elena Nikitina, Aleksandr Tretyakov, Olga Potylitsina, Maria Orlova, bobsleddersDmitry Trunenkov, Aleksey Negodailo, Olga Stulneva, Lyudmila Udobkina, luger Albert Demchenko, speed skater Artyom Kuznetsov and other athletes are among the sportsmen who were justified.
Another 11 athletes aren't banned like lepers but they were recognised guilty and will have to miss Pyeongchang. Bobsledders Aleksey Pushkaryov, Aleksandr Kasyanov, Aleksey Voyevoda, Aleksandr Zubkov and Ilvir Khuzin, skiers Yulia Ivanova, Yulia Chekalyova and Anastasia Dotsenko, hockey players Galina Skiba, Anna Shibanova and Inna Dybanyuk are on the list.
But missing even the Korean Games is equal to a lifetime Olympic ban, in fact, for the majority of these athletes. They won't be able to return their previous conditions 4 years later, as much as they would keep fit.
And what we managed to ''win''?
As for previous merits, the rehabilitated 2014 Sochi medals allowed Russia to hold the first team results (it should be reminded that after ''demonstratively beating'' the Russian national team, it was down from the first to the third line).
But, unfortunately, not all medals will be back home. Due to the confirmed sentence (even if it was softened), Russia lacks two gold medals for Zubkov and Voyevoda. The question about two silver medals in biathlon remains in the air – the CAS will consider the cases of Vilukhina, Zaitseva and Romanova later.
So what's now?
Does this verdict of the CAS mean that all exculpated athletes will be able to fly to Korea in 1,5 weeks? No. Firstly, the CAS hasn't announced the declaration of intent yet. Secondly, it seems that the IOC doesn't believe in the acquittal much and already rushed to distribute quotas of the Russian delegation among other countries. And the last term of submission of applications for the Olympics – on 28 January – expired. But the Korean organisers already said they were ready to allocate additional quotas for Russians if those cleaned their names.
Speaking of the group of athletes who weren't exculpated completely, it seems that they will continue fighting for their honest names. The most interesting thing in this situation is that the functionaries who did nothing to justify the Russian athletes started to give speeches in the media with bellicose statements after the court's decision.
''As for the 11 athletes whose sanctions were partially lifted, it is a nonsense,'' Vice-Prine Minister of Russia Vitaly Mutko said. ''This executive committee has 4 or 6-year power but they make a decision on lifetime disqualification. This is why the lifetime disqualification was cancelled. As for anomalous samples due to which athletes remained as wrongdoers, here we will help the athletes to find out how it happened. These 11 athletes will be provided with all kind of juridical support.''
Meanwhile, Russian Minister of Sport Pavel Kolobkov expressed hope that the IOC would allow the justified Russians to participate in the Games in Pyeongchang. ''They had many difficulties last year. Now they want to move forward and continue doing what they like the most – to compete in a fair fight. The athletes were justified in the case on the accusation of breaching anti-doping rules during the Games in Sochi. Both the guys and we are glad that justice was served. The CAS recognised they weren't guilty and cancelled the decisions of the IOC commission headed by Oswald,'' Kolobkov said to TASS.
And, of course, a question arises: why do we go to Korea with the white flag and without the anthem if the majority of our athletes were not guilty? It's clear that it's serious to have 11 ''wrongdoers''. However, the sin is not so serious to be punished by such a ''tick''. Obviously, the decisions at a 15-million fine together with the expulsion of the Russian Olympic Committee need to be at least reconsidered.