Forty-seven Russian athletes and staff implicated in doping have lost a last-minute court bid to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Friday morning.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had refused to invite the group of Russians, saying it had evidence of alleged doping in Russian sports.
“The applications filed by Russian athletes and coaches have been dismissed,” CAS said in a statement, issued just hours before the games’ opening ceremony.
CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said: “In its decisions, the CAS arbitrators have considered that the process created by the IOC to establish an invitation list of Russian athletes to compete as OAR could not be described as a sanction but rather as an eligibility decision.
“Although the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was suspended, the IOC nevertheless chose to offer individual athletes the opportunity to participate in the Winter Games under prescribed conditions – a process that was designed to balance the IOC’s interest in the global fight against doping and the interests of individual athletes from Russia.”
Russia’s team has been suspended from the Olympics over a systemic doping scandal, but the IOC has allowed a group of Russians considered as clean athletes to take part.
The 45 athletes and two coaches who brought the application wanted the court to overturn the IOC’s decision not to invite them to the games.
A vetting process was designed to exclude Russian athletes from the games if IOC officials weren’t sure they were clean, even if they hadn’t been banned for doping.
The games will still include 168 Russians who have been invited as Olympic Athletes from Russia, competing in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag.
Nick Butler, of insidethegames.biz website, said: “To clarify, this means that the likes of Olympic champion skeleton rider Alexander Tretiakov and female bronze medallist Elena Nikitina, as well Olympic cross-country skiing champion Alexander Legkov, will be barred from the Winter Olympics.”
The IOC welcomed the decision, saying it “supports the fight against doping and brings clarity for all athletes.”