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Russia loses appeal against ban on Olympic track and field athletes

Thu Jul 21, 2016


Russia's Sergey Shubenkov competes in the men's 110m hurdles final at a national athletics cup in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, on July 20, 2016. ©AFP

The world’s highest sports tribunal, Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), has rejected Russia’s appeal against the exclusion of the country’s track and field athletes from the Rio 2016 Olympics over a doping ban. 

"CAS rejects the claims/appeal of the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes," the CAS said in a statement on Thursday, backing the rights of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which governs world athletics, to suspend the Russian athletics federation.

In a statement, the IAAF said it was "pleased the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has supported its position.”

“Today’s judgment has created a level playing field for athletes. The CAS award upholds the rights of the IAAF to use its rules for the protection of the sport, to protect clean athletes and support the credibility and integrity of competition,” added the statement.

The decision by the Swiss-based tribunal will be taken into consideration by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which is expected to reach a final decision on the participation of Russian athletes in the coming days. This increases the possibility that the IOC will now exclude Russia from all sports, not just track and field, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A number of Russian athletes could however compete as neutrals at the Rio Games which is scheduled to start on August 5 if they meet a number of criteria, including being repeatedly tested outside their homeland.

Russian track and field athletes were banned from international competition in November 2015 after an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said it found widespread state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics.

Russia rejects ruling as collective punishment

Russia, which prides itself on its status as a sporting superpower, has not admitted running a state-sponsored doping program.

Following the ruling, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said CAS had set "a certain precedent" by punishing a collective group for doping offences by individuals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko watch the cross country skiing men's relay during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center near Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, February 16, 2014. ©Reuters

Mutko also said the CAS decision completely violates the rights of "clean" sports people.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "I certainly regret such a decision by CAS which refers to absolutely all of our athletes."

"The principle of collective responsibility cannot be acceptable. The news is not very good," added Peskov.

The head of Russia's delegation to the Rio Olympics also said the decision was devoid of any logic while two-time Olympic gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva called it "the funeral of athletics."


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