IOC Head Notes Need for CAS Reform After Russian Athletes Appeals Upheld

© Sputnik / Ramil Sitdikov / Go to the mediabankOlympic Park in Pyeongchang
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PYEONGCHANG (Sputnik) - President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach on Sunday expressed the need to reform the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after it had overturned the IOC move to impose lifetime bans on 28 Russian athletes over doping charges.

Bach held a press conference in South Korea’s Pyeongchang, several days before the Olympics are due to start there on Friday. During the press conference, Bach dwelt on the organization’s decision to suspend its payments to the Association of International Boxing Associations (AIB), as well as the recent sex abuse scandal in the US Gymnastics Federation.

However, the IOC head mostly focused on the situation around Russian athletes who had been affected by a large-scale doping scandal.

Need to Reform CAS

On Thursday, CAS revealed that it had ruled to uphold the appeals of 28 Russian athletes against the IOC Disciplinary Commission's decisions on their disqualification and ban from the Olympics for life over violating anti-doping rules, and partially upheld the remaining 11 appeals. The IOC, however, said it regretted CAS' decision, and expressed plans to carefully consider CAS' reasoned arguments once they are available for possible appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

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On Friday, Bach had met with athletes from various countries who had already arrived in South Korea for the Olympics. The IOC head noted during the press conference that the CAS ruling on the Russian athletes was "the hottest topic" during this meeting.

Bach expressed disappointment and dissatisfaction with the recent CAS ruling. Moreover, Bach showed concern with the fact that CAS had not yet provided the reasoned decision in the Russian athletes’ cases.

"We have asked CAS to speed this procedure up, we have been told that this could be by the end of February, which is extremely an unsatisfactory situation given the gravity of the cases. In this respect, the IOC Executive Board is not satisfied at all with the approach by CAS … We feel that this decision shows the urgent need for reforms in the internal structure of CAS. That means in particular that CAS has to change its structure in a way that it can ensure, and that it can better manage the quality and the consistency of its jurisdiction," Bach said.

The IOC official noted that the organization had already discussed the idea of reforms with CAS and expressed hope that the court would implement them.

Asked if such IOC actions would be considered as interference with the CAS to influence its decisions, Bach noted that it was not only the right but the obligation of the IOC to express concern over CAS' moves, because the situation where the court loses credibility of the athletes is unacceptable.

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Bach also mentioned the issue of the reallocation of medals received by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia's Sochi. The IOC annulled the results several Russian athletes had obtained at the Sochi games over alleged doping violations by these athletes. Bach said in December that the medals these athletes had received would be reallocated to other athletes during the upcoming Pyeongchang games.

"With regard to reallocation of medals, we have to wait until all legal remedies are exhausted. That means that we have to wait at least 30 days after these athletes have the reasoned decision by CAS. And this is why we are so disappointed and unsatisfied with the fact this reasoned decision does not exist… Therefore, unfortunately, here in Pyeongchang this reallocation of medals cannot happen yet," Bach explained.

Uncertainty Over Aquitted Russian Athletes's Possible Participation

On Saturday, IOC Director of Communications Mark Adams said that the organization’s Invitation Review Panel would consider extending invitations to the 15 Russian athletes, recently acquitted by CAS over doping charges, to participate in the upcoming Winter Games.

"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, and therefore we are following and we will be following the IOC EB decision of December 5," Bach explained.

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The IOC head added that the organization was not excluding anyone from participating in the games, as it was just not inviting some Russian athletes to take part in the competition. Bach noted the legality of such an option referring to the recent decision of a Swiss court to reject appeals of six Russian athletes regarding the lack of an IOC invitation to the games.

Bach said the IOC would not speculate concerning its future moves in relation to the Russian athletes after the CAS decision, reiterating the organization’s need to see the court’s reasoned decisions in the case.

"I understand the confusion [about the situation around Russian athletes] … Given that we can hopefully have the decision of the independent panel and the implementation group [on invitation of 15 acquitted Russian athletes to the Olympics] within the next couple of days, then this issue should be solved well ahead of the games. I think athletes can trust in the IOC that we do everything to clarify this situation as soon as possible, and that we clarify it in the spirit of the decision that we took on the 5th of December," Back said.

Asked if he had any regrets of the way the IOC had handled the Russian doping scandal, Bach noted that the IOC had reacted to "this attack on the integrity of the games" by imposing its toughest sanctions on the Russian Olympic Committee and suspending it, as well as banning many Russian sports officials from the Olympics for life.

"And we gave, on the other hand, a new and young generation of Russian athletes, after having passed great scrutiny by [the IOC] independent panel, the opportunity to be invited to participate in the games, and to be ambassadors also, in particular, in their country, to be ambassadors for ‘clean’ sport, to show to the Russians and to the Russian athletes community, that it pays off to be ‘clean’ and that you can be successful," Bach stressed.

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On December 5, the IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee over an alleged state-sponsored doping scheme in the country which resulted, according to the IOC, in particular in doping violations by Russian athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics. The allegations have been denied by the Russian authorities.

The IOC also prohibited the Russian athletes from competing under the national flag in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, saying that only "clean" athletes, to whom special invitations have been extended by the IOC, may participate in the contest under a neutral flag.

So far, the IOC has invited 169 Russian athletes to compete in the upcoming Winter Games. The invitations have not however been extended to a number of leading Russian athletes.

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