Russian athlete ban in luge overturned

Russia Luge
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A Russian ban in luge was reversed in what may be a significant ruling for Russian athletes across Olympic sports who were barred after the invasion of Ukraine.

No reasoning for the decision was given, but the Russian Olympic Committee hopes it will set a precedent for appeals in other sports. There are several pending cases with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Last week’s luge decision came from the International Luge Federation (FIL) arbitration court, which works independently of the FIL.

“The FIL leadership is still of the opinion that officials and athletes from states with behavior contrary to international law must be excluded,” a federation spokesperson said in an email Sunday. “The FIL may appeal against this decision of the [FIL} Court of Arbitration. However, the legal chances are probably not very promising at the moment.”

The president of the Russian luge federation, which had appealed the ban, said that it violated the FIL charter.

The FIL spokesperson noted passages from the Olympic Charter and FIL statutes that work in the Russians’ favor.

First, from the Olympic Charter: “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Second, from the FIL statutes, which prohibit “political, racist, religious, or any other discrimination towards its members.”

“The collective actions against all Russian athletes, coaches, officials … is based only on the nationality of the individuals concerned, and to be regarded as prohibited political discrimination,” the spokesperson said.

Russians remain banned from major international competition in every other Winter Olympic sport and many Summer Olympic sports.

The top-level international luge season ended with the Winter Olympics, before Russia invaded Ukraine. The next season is expected to begin in November, so it’s not guaranteed that Russians will be eligible for the next World Cup races that are seven months away.

The FIL on Sunday shared on its social media an open letter from Ukrainian lugers to their fellow athletes, calling for a boycott of international luge competition so long as Russians are allowed to compete.

“We are alarmed and extremely concerned about the possibility of allowing Russian luge team to compete in FIL International competitions,” the letter said. “In this potential scenario we are extremely worried about the physical and mental safety of all Ukrainian athletes during international competition.”

Tatyana Ivanova was the lone Russian to win an Olympic luge medal in Beijing, a singles bronze. Russian Roman Repilov is the reigning men’s singles world champion from 2021.

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