271 athletes approved to represent Russia in Rio de Janeiro

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With the doping controversy surrounding Russia’s national team entering the Rio Olympics, it was anyone’s guess who all would be allowed to compete when the games officially begin Friday. Thursday it was announced by the Russian Olympic Committee that 271 athletes have been approved for competition by a panel appointed by the International Olympic Committee to scrutinize past testing history of each athlete. That number is 118 fewer than Russia’s original list of competitors, and they’ll have fewer athletes in Rio than 11 other countries.

Four years ago Russia took 436 athletes to London according to the New York Times, with the nation winning a total of 82 medals. The process of approving athletes for Rio was a confusing one, with the IOC essentially leaving the process up to each sport’s governing body. And with the lack of a uniform policy there was some confusion, as one would expect.

Last month, Olympic officials asked each sport’s governing body to make preliminary decisions they would review. They instructed authorities to consider Russian athletes tainted by the state-run doping system unless their testing histories proved otherwise.

Those instructions were not necessarily interpreted uniformly by the various governing bodies, with some ratifying all Russian athletes within hours, as tennis did, and others deliberating for the last week and seeking further guidance.

Also of note in the ruling was that the IOC’s decision to ban any athlete with prior failed drug tests was ruled to be “unenforcable” by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which opens the door for appeals to be made. Track and field, which was banned by the IAAF, rowing and weightlifting remain banned at this time, but CAS secretary-general Matthieu Reeb told Reuters that the door isn’t necessarily closed on those athletes when it comes to competing in Rio.

“We can do an appeal in 24 hours, so anything is possible,” Reeb said according to Reuters. “It’s a first step. There’s now potentially a way to get through.”