By GRACE SMITH
On Feb. 1, the International Olympic Committee’s lifetime ban on 28 of the 39 Russian Olympic athletes as a result of anti-doping violations was overturned by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport due to insufficient evidence.
The court upheld the appeals of athletes who had been given a lifetime ban following discovery of “systematic manipulation of anti-doping rules” after the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The court ruled that, while doping violations had taken place, the lifetime bans were not justified. Instead, the court ruled to shortened the ban to just the 2018 Olympic Games and the athlete’s scores and medals in Sochi will be reinstated in the record books.
Other Olympic athletes disagree with the decision. Canadian luger, Sam Edney, whose team risks losing a bronze medal as a result of this ruling, called this “a dark day for Clean Sports.”
However, it is still unclear whether these athletes will attempt to participate in the the 2018 games.
The IOC stated that the decision brought “satisfaction on the one hand and disappointment on the other.”
It also warned that the upholding of their appeals did not mean an invitation to 2018 games.
To do so, they would have to pass the Olympic Committee’s Invitation Review Panel and then be selected to join one of the Russian teams competing under a neutral banner.
The Olympic Committee still has the opportunity to appeal the Swiss court’s decision and bring forth significant evidence that these doping attempts greatly impacted the outcome of the game and that their severity warrants a lifetime ban from participation.
Several affected athletes, including Olga Zaytseva, Russia’s most accomplished bi-athlete who retired in 2015, claim they are victims of an overarching, collective punishment against their nation. She claims that not only is she clean but the entirety of the evidence brought against her fellow athletes is “fabricated.”
As a result of this decision, the Olympic Committee’s action on doping violators was brought into question. There is no doubt that doping and use of forbidden performance enhancers deeply violates not only the Olympic rules but also the spirit of the games.
But the question stands on the severity of the punishment and whether the International Olympic Committee struck too broadly, rather than deeply.