Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko likened the Olympics to an exclusive membership club after 45 Russian athletes were denied an invitation to the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday dismissed an appeal from the athletes and two coaches requesting to be invited to the Games, fewer than nine hours prior to Friday night’s opening ceremony.
The decision endorsed the International Olympic Committee’s procedures put in place in December following their own investigations into the systemic use of performance-enhancing drugs at the 2014 Games, held in Sochi, Russia.
Mutko, who in December was banned for life from the Olympics, told Russian news agency TASS: “The procedure of inviting or not inviting is similar those of a commercial private club tournament.
“But those are the Olympic Games at the end of the day. This all will diminish competition and attention to the Games.”
CAS, sport’s highest court, ruled the IOC’s process over the involvement of the Olympic Athletes from Russia “could not be described as a sanction, but rather an eligibility decision”.
The IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency welcomed the ruling. So too did the lawyer for Grigory Rodchenkov, the mastermind of the Sochi scandal and the whistleblower who brought it to the attention of the anti-doping authorities.
However, Jim Walden claimed the IOC and CAS were “complicit in enabling Russian doping” and called for the resignation of IOC president Thomas Bach, who has presided over a chaotic build-up to a second successive Games, after Rio 2016.
“Today’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which blocked doped Russian athletes from admission to the Olympics, is a small semblance of justice for clean athletes,” Walden said in a statement.
“The International Olympic Committee and CAS have been complicit in enabling Russian doping.
“I am confident that today’s decision is mostly a reaction to the outcry from clean athletes against Olympic corruption and complicity.
“I hope IOC president Thomas Bach is listening. For the sake of the Olympic ideal, he needs to resign.”
Friday’s ruling related to two separate cases, one involving 32 athletes and another involving 15 individuals, 13 of them athletes, two of them coaches.
The CAS statement said: “The CAS arbitrators have considered that the process created by the IOC to establish an invitation list of Russian athletes to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) could not be described as a sanction but rather as an eligibility decision.
“Although the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was suspended, the IOC nevertheless chose to offer individual athletes the opportunity to participate in the Winter Games under prescribed conditions – a process that was designed to balance the IOC’s interest in the global fight against doping and the interests of individual athletes from Russia.”
The CAS panel determined the Russian applicants did not demonstrate that the two IOC special commissions – the invitation review panel and the Olympic Athlete from Russia implementation group – carried out their evaluations in a discriminatory, arbitrary or unfair manner. Nor did they act improperly.
The IOC in December determined that Russian athletes who proved they were clean would be allowed to compete as neutrals in the Games.
The Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR) will compete under the Olympic flag and the Olympic anthem will be played at any medal ceremonies they feature in.
The OAR is the third largest delegation at the Games after the United States and Canada, with 168 athletes.
Among the athletes who were hoping to gatecrash the Olympics by forcing an invite through CAS were Victor Ahn and and Elena Nikitina. Now both will return home.
South Korea-born Ahn is the most decorated short-track speedskater in Olympic history with six gold medals. He became a Russian citizen to represent the hosts at the Sochi Games.
Skeleton’s Nikitina was stripped of her bronze medal from Sochi 2014.