ReutersLausanne, SwitzerlandJul 21, 2016, 10.34 AM (IST)
Sport's highest tribunal the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday rejected Russia's appeal against the exclusion of its track and field athletes from the Olympic Games starting in Rio in 15 days' time. The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport said in its verdict: "CAS rejects the claims/appeal of the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes."
The appeal to CAS was launched by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and 68 Russian athletes who said they were being punished despite not having failed drugs tests, and that they should be eligible to compete in Rio.
The verdict drew swift condemnation from Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "I certainly regret such a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which refers to absolutely all of our athletes." Russia had argued the blanket ban was unfair to individual athletes with no record of doping. "The principle of collective responsibility is hardly acceptable," Peskov said. Double Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva described the CAS decision as "the funeral of athletics".
IAAF welcomes CAS verdict
Athletics' governing body the IAAF has welcomed sports court CAS's rejection of Russia's doping appeal, declaring Thursday's ruling "has created a level playing field for athletes". "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," the IAAF statement read.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe cautioned that while he welcomed the verdict, "this is not a day for triumphant statements. I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing. It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude."
IOC mulls banning Russia entirely from the Rio Games
The decision increases the possibility that the International Olympic Committee will now ban Russia from all sports in Rio, a grave blow to a nation that prides itself on its status as a sporting superpower. The IOC is expected to reach a final decision on Sunday and has said it will take the CAS ruling into account.
Russian track and field athletes were banned from international competition in November after an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found rampant state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics.
The ban was imposed by the IAAF, the global governing body for athletics, which reconfirmed it last month, saying there were still considerable problems with anti-doping in Russia.
On Monday, another WADA report revealed evidence of systematic and widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian competitors before and at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.