Russia loses Olympic track and field ban appeal

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LONDON (AP) – Now that Russian track and field athletes have failed in their effort to have their Olympic ban overturned, it’s up to the IOC to decide whether to kick the entire Russian team out of the games that begin in Rio de Janeiro in 15 days.

In another blow to the image of the sports superpower, the highest court in sports on Friday dismissed an appeal by 68 Russian track athletes of the ban imposed by the IAAF following allegations of systematic and state-sponsored doping.

Sports officials in Moscow condemned the ruling as “political,” and said some athletes might take their case to civil courts. Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva said the Rio Games will be devalued, with only “pseudo-gold medals” available.

In its ruling, the Court of Arbitration for Sport found that track and field’s world governing body, the IAAF, had properly applied its own rules in keeping the Russians out of the games that begin Aug. 5.

The three-man panel ruled that the Russian Olympic Committee “is not entitled to nominate Russian track and field athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games considering that they are not eligible to participate under the IAAF competition rules.”

The Russians had argued against a collective ban, saying it punishes those athletes who have not been accused of wrongdoing.

The IAAF praised the decision, saying: “Today’s judgment has created a level playing field for athletes.”

MORE: Five Russian track and field stars set to miss Rio

IAAF President Sebastian Coe, who has declared the ban is crucial to protecting the integrity of the competition, said it was “not a day for triumphant statements.”

“I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing,” he said. “It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude.”

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko suggested Russia could take the case to a civil court. CAS general secretary Matthieu Reeb said the Russians have the right to appeal to the Swiss federal tribunal within 30 days, but only on “procedural grounds,” not the merits of the decision. Olympic bodies and athletes sign up to CAS jurisdiction, and its rulings have very rarely been overturned.

Reeb said the ruling is not binding on the International Olympic Committee, which has the final say as the supreme organizer of the games. However, the IOC last month accepted the IAAF decision to maintain its ban on the Russian athletes.

“The door is open for the IOC to decide, to determine even on a case-by-case principle whether these athletes are eligible or not,” Reeb told reporters outside the court headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

While the ruling clears the way for other individual sports federations to apply similar bans on Russians, it also increases pressure on the IOC to take the unprecedented step of excluding the whole Russian team. The IOC has never banned an entire country from the games for doping, and the last time Russia missed the Olympics was in 1984, when the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Games.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, along with many national anti-doping bodies and athletes groups, have called on the IOC to impose a total ban on Russia following fresh allegations of state-orchestrated cheating across dozens of Olympic sports.

Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who was commissioned by WADA, issued a scathing report Monday that accused Russia’s Sports Ministry of orchestrating a doping system that affected 28 summer and winter Olympic sports. Officers of Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, were also involved in the cheating, which included swapping of doping samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, McLaren found.

On Tuesday, the IOC executive board said it would “explore the legal options” for a possible total ban on Russia but would wait until after the CAS ruling before making a final decision.

The IOC executive board is scheduled to hold another emergency meeting Sunday via teleconference to consider the issue. In a statement Thursday, the IOC said it “takes note” of the CAS ruling upholding the track and field ban.

“We will now have to study and analyze the full decision,” the IOC said. “The IOC decision on the participation of the Russian athletes will be taken in the coming days.”

Former WADA president Dick Pound, an IOC member from Canada, accused the IOC of dithering and said the committee does not show the appetite to apply a total ban.

“You’ve got the power to simply withdraw the invitation and say, ‘Sorry, your country has not demonstrated any understanding or respect of rules for clean competition. You’re not welcome,'” Pound said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Pound, who authored a WADA report last year that detailed cheating in Russia and led to the IAAF ban, criticized the IOC for suggesting that individual federations could decide whether to exclude Russian athletes in their own sports, rather than imposing a complete ban itself.

“Why is the IOC not acting in the face of incontrovertible evidence of government interference?” he said. “What else do you need?”

A group of 14 national anti-doping agencies sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach urging a complete ban “to uphold the Olympic Charter and the integrity of the Rio Olympic Games.” Among the countries represented in the letter were the United States, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Austria.

Germany’s Olympic committee president Alfons Hoermann said the CAS verdict was a “clear signal to the IOC.”

“Where we have systematic cheating, we also must have systematic punishment,” he said.

As it stands, the IAAF has approved just two Russians to compete, as “neutral athletes,” after they showed they had been training and living abroad under a robust drug-testing regime. One is doping whistleblower and 800-meter runner Yulia Stepanova; the other is Florida-based long jumper Darya Klishina.

Mutko said a Russian government committee will be formed to examine the McLaren report.

He added Russian athletes will continue to “defend their honor and dignity” even though any legal proceedings may not be held before the games begin.

Russia canceled a ceremonial send-off Friday for its Olympic athletes heading to Rio.

Isinbayeva, the pole vault world record holder who is the face and voice of Russian track and field, told the state news agency TASS that the ruling marked “the funeral” of her sport.

She had been aiming for her fifth Olympics and was a leading voice in calling for the ban to be overturned, even speaking at Tuesday’s CAS hearing.

In comments on her Instagram page, Isinbayeva suggested that some of her foreign rivals could be doping and wanted Russia banned to make the competition easier.

“Let all these pseudo-clean foreign athletes breathe a sigh of relief and win their pseudo-gold medals without us,” she said. “They’ve always been frightened of strength.”

Vera Rebrik, who won gold in the javelin for Ukraine at the European Championships before switching her allegiance to Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, was left out by the ruling.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. … I can’t find the words,” she told Russian state broadcaster Match TV.

MORE: Usain Bolt reacts to Russia decision

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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