Court upholds ban of Russia track and field

ByESPN.com news services
July 21, 2016, 5:30 AM

— -- Russia lost its appeal Thursday against the Olympic ban on its track and field athletes, a decision that could add pressure on the International Olympic Committee to exclude the country entirely from next month's Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the appeal of 68 Russian athletes seeking to overturn the ban imposed by the IAAF following allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups.

The court, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, upheld the "validity" of the IAAF ban, saying a country whose national federation is suspended is ineligible from entering international competitions, including the Olympics.

The three-person panel ruled that the Russian Olympic Committee "is not entitled to nominate Russian track and field athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games considering that they are not eligible to participate under the IAAF competition rules."

CAS, however, said it had no jurisdiction on whether the IOC can accept or refuse the entry of Russian track and field athletes, either those representing their country or as "neutral athletes."

The Russians argued against a collective ban of their track athletes, saying it punishes those who have not been accused of wrongdoing.

"Today's judgment has created a level playing field for athletes," the IAAF said in a statement. "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."

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said it was "not a day for triumphant statements."

"I didn't come into this sport to stop athletes from competing," he said. "It is our federation's instinctive desire to include, not exclude."

Hammer thrower Sergey Litvinov, who was on Russia's track and field team for next month's Olympics, told The Associated Press he is "very sad" to miss the Games but hopes the team's ban will mean more serious reforms.

Litvinov, who was fifth at last year's world championships, said Russian athletics officials failed to act on doping in time and hopes "that this situation can encourage the management" to continue reforms.

"I want all [doping] systems to be shut down," Litvinov said. "Not just ours, but all of them."

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the decision to ban Russian track and field athletes was "political."

Mutko told the Tass news agency that Russia will consider further actions and lashed out at the verdict as unfair.

"In my view, it's a subjective decision, somewhat political and one with no legal basis," he was quoted as saying.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow regrets the court's decision. Dmitry Peskov added that applying "collective responsibility [to all athletes] can hardly be acceptable."

Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva said banning Russia's track and field team represents the "funeral" of her sport.

"Thank you everyone for the funeral of athletics," Isinbayeva said sarcastically to Tass. "It's a pure political decision."

Isinbayeva, who represented Russian athletes at Tuesday's hearing in Switzerland, said there is "nothing concrete" behind the ruling and has appealed to IOC president Thomas Bach to overturn the ban.

Pole vault world-record holder Yelena Isinbayeva said the ban means the Games will be devalued with only "pseudo-gold medals" available.

The two-time Olympic champion had been aiming for her fifth Games and was a leading voice in calling for the ban to be overturned, even speaking at Tuesday's CAS hearing.

Thursday's ruling is likely to weigh heavily on whether the IOC could bar the entire Russian team -- across all sports -- following new allegations of a vast government-organized doping program.

Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, issued a report Monday that accused Russia's sports ministry of orchestrating a vast doping system that affected 28 Summer and Winter Olympic sports.

The IOC executive board said Tuesday it would "explore the legal options" for a possible total ban on Russia but would wait until after the CAS ruling before making a final decision. The IOC has scheduled an executive board meeting on Sunday to consider the issue.

"We will now have to study and analyze the full decision," the IOC said Thursday.

Had the IAAF ban been thrown out by CAS and the Russian track athletes let back in, that seemingly would have ruled out the IOC imposing a blanket ban. With the track ban upheld, however, the option remains open.

Former WADA president John Fahey said Thursday that it was "clear-cut" that Russia should not be allowed at this year's Olympics.

"The McLaren report makes it abundantly clear that if they want to safeguard the integrity of the Olympic Games, they need to ban Russia," Fahey said. "To have Russia there will put into jeopardy the world's view of the Olympics."

ROC president Alexander Zhukov has said he would not rule out legal action if Russia is hit with a total ban from the Games.

As it stands, the IAAF has approved just two Russians to compete, as "neutral athletes," after they showed they had been training and living abroad under a robust drug-testing regime. One is doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova; the other is Florida-based long jumper Darya Klishina.

The case dates back to November, when the IAAF suspended Russia's track and field federation following a WADA commission report that alleged systematic and state-backed doping. The International Association of Athletics Federations upheld the ban last month, a decision accepted by the IOC.

In extending the ban, the IAAF said Russia's entire drug-testing system had been corrupted and that there was no way to prove which athletes were clean. Letting Russian athletes compete in the Games would undermine the credibility of the competition, according to the IAAF.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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