IOC chief 'disappointed' over lifting of Russian doping bans

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.

Thomas Bach said that the ruling came as a complete surprise to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).   -  AP

Olympics chief Thomas Bach called for reforms to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Sunday as he slammed its "extremely disappointing" decision to lift the 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, which comes just days before the start of the Winter Games 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 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Although Russia has been banned from the Games over its 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 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."

'Clarification' sought

CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb told AFP on Sunday he would like deeper precisions before commenting on Bach's position. "Before taking any stand, we will first seek clarification from the IOC as to the kind of reforms mentioned by its president today, beyond the disappointment he expressed in relation to the sentences of the CAS concerning Russian athletes," he said.

Read: More athletes from Russia may make it to Olympics

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," said Bach.

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."

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