The United States Anti-Doping Agency has launched a strongly-worded attack on the International Olympic Committee after 28 Russian athletes had lifetime doping bans overturned on appeal.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on Thursday there was âinsufficient evidenceâ to uphold the suspensions issued by the IOC following an investigation into state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
In a further 11 cases anti-doping violations were confirmed, but their lifetime bans have been reduced just to cover the 2018 Winter Games, which start in Pyeongchang on February 9.
The IOC has complained the CAS rulings could âhave a serious impact on the future fight against dopingâ but, coming so close to Pyeongchang, USADA has described the situation as a âsorry messâ. Consequently, the American agency has thrown blame back at the IOC.
Chief executive Travis T Tygart said in a statement: âThe IOCâs failure to swiftly and decisively deal will (sic) Russiaâs unprecedented attack on fair play has eroded public trust in the values of the Olympic movement.
âSlamming dozens of cases through the process on the eve of the Olympic Games has not served justice and as such the integrity of the Games has been sabotaged. The whole sorry mess truly stinks and the nightmare continues for clean athletes. This must change.â
CAS ruled that âwith respect to these 28 athletes, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 are reinstatedâ.
With the Russian Olympic Committee suspended, only Russian athletes vetted by the IOC are able to compete and must do so for a neutral team.
âNot being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation,â read an IOC statement. âIn this context, it is also important to note that the CAS secretary general insisted that the CAS decision âdoes not mean these 28 athletes are declared innocentâ.â
The IOC had mixed feelings about the CAS verdict. It was disappointed so many bans were overturned but pleased its sanctions were vindicated in 11 cases.
A statement read: âOn the one hand, the confirmation of the anti-doping rule violations for 11 athletes because of the manipulation of their samples clearly demonstrates once more the existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
âOn the other hand, the IOC regrets very much that the panels did not take this proven existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system into consideration for the other 28 cases.â
This, it continued, is because CAS required a higher burden of proof than the IOC disciplinary commission that awarded the bans, which âmay have a serious impact on the future fight against dopingâ.
CAS has not yet released the reasoned decisions, or full judgements, of the two panels of experts who listened to the Russian appeals in Geneva last week. The IOC has said it will analyse those decisions âvery carefullyâ to consider its options, which may include an appeal through the Swiss federal courts.