PYEONGCHANG (AFP) – Olympics chief Thomas Bach called for reforms to the Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday as he slammed its “extremely disappointing” decision to lift life bans for doping imposed on 28 Russian athletes.
Bach said the International Olympic Committee’s executive board was “not satisfied at all” with the approach by CAS, whose decision came just days before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Last week, the independent sports tribunal cited insufficient evidence as it lifted the bans, adding to the sense of confusion surrounding Russia at the Games in South Korea.
Although Russia has been banned from the Games following the discovery of a wide-ranging doping conspiracy, 169 athletes are due to compete under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.
“We feel that this decision shows the urgent need for reforms in the internal structure of CAS,” Bach said, after a two-day meeting of the IOC’s executive board.
“And that means in particular that CAS has to change its structure in a way that it can better manage the quality and the consistency of its jurisdiction.”
Bach said an IOC panel would announce in the “next couple of days” whether 15 of the now-reinstated Russians – 13 athletes and two coaches – would be invited to take part in Pyeongchang. The rest of the 28 have either retired or are unavailable for undisclosed reasons.
“The absence of sanctions by CAS does not mean that you are entitled to receive an invitation from the IOC because receiving this invitation is a privilege of clean Russian athletes,” Bach warned.
He added that the request to reform CAS has already been forwarded to John Coates, president of its governing body ICAS, who was “very appreciative”.
It is the second successive Olympics where the IOC has been embroiled in problems involving Russian doping, after accusations of systemic drug cheating blew up just before Rio 2016.
Russia topped the medals table when it hosted the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. But it later emerged that dirty samples involving its athletes were switched using a “mousehole” in the anti-doping laboratory’s wall.
“This CAS decision is extremely disappointing and surprising for the IOC,” Bach said. “We would never have expected this.”
Bach said that Olympic officials had asked CAS for an explanation for their ruling and had been told no full accounting would be released until the end of February. The Games in South Korea end on February 25.
He added that so far, the IOC knew only what had been released by CAS in a press statement, calling it “extremely unsatisfactory given the gravity of the cases”.
The IOC’s disciplinary commission banned 43 Russian athletes for life and disqualified all Russians from competing at the Pyeongchang Games over a state-sponsored doping conspiracy.
It later ruled that 169 athletes who had proved they were clean would be allowed to compete.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday upheld the appeals of the 28 Russians against the Olympic life bans, ruling there was “insufficient” evidence they had benefited from the doping system at Sochi 2014.