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Swiss-based CAS partially upholds appeals of Russian female biathletes

Yana Romanova, Olga Vilukhina and Olga Zaitseva were banned for life from all sports activities by the IOC, which also ruled to cancel all their results achieved at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi
The headquarters of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Valery Sharifulin/TASS
The headquarters of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, September 24. /TASS/. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland’s Lausanne has upheld appeals of two Russian female biathlon athletes against their suspensions, the court’s press office said in a statement on Thursday.

The biathletes at the issue are Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina. In November 2017, the two Russian female biathletes along with another one, Olga Zaitseva, were banned for life from all sports activities by the IOC, which also ruled to cancel all their results achieved at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. By now they officially wrapped up their sports careers. 

The CAS verdict on Thursday ruled in regard to Vilukhnia and Romanova that: "The Panel concluded that none of the acts alleged to have committed by these two athletes had been established to its comfortable satisfaction and beyond the mere suspicion of a potential ADRV."

"Accordingly, the Panel ordered that the findings and sanctions imposed upon Ms. Vilukhina and Ms. Romanova in the challenged decisions should be set aside and that their results in individual events at the Sochi Games should be reinstated," the statement from the court in Switzerland continued.

The Swiss-based court, however, ruled in regard to Zaitseva that she "committed ADRVs in the form of the use of a prohibited method (urine substitution) and in the form of the use of a prohibited substance."

"The IOC decision in this matter is confirmed, with one exception: Ms Zaitseva is declared ineligible for the next edition of the Olympic Winter Games subsequent to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games (i.e. PyeongChang 2018) instead of a life ban from all Olympic Games," the court added.

The CAS verdict on Thursday means that the Russian national women’s team would be deprived of the silver medals of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi in biathlon relay, won by Vilukhina, Romanova, Zaitseva and Yekaterina Shumilova.

The Swiss-based court also ruled that Vilukhina’s silver medal in women’s biathlon sprint race must remain with her.

Hearings

Zaitseva, Romanova and Vilukhina, together with another Russian biathlete, Yekaterina Shumilova, won the silver of the 2014 Olympics in biathlon team relay competition but the IOC later cancelled their result. Vilukhina was also stripped of her 2014 Olympics silver medal in the women’s biathlon sprint event.

All three of them filed an appeal with the Swiss-based court more than two years ago, but the start of the hearings had been postponed due to various reasons since then to finally start in early March this year.

Doping abuse charges and the following suspension of three Russian biathletes were based on the testimony of Grigory Rodchenkov, who is a former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory.

Whistleblower Rodchenkov and his doping allegations

Former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov told Western media in the spring of 2016 that Russian athletes largely used performance enhancing drugs at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi with the approval of the national sports authorities.

On the whole, the ex-doping official claimed that the Russian sports authorities allegedly prepared a special doping program for national athletes in order to win most of the medals at home Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

The former chief of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory also informed WADA about the so-called list of Russian athletes, who on the eve of the 2014 Winter Olympics allegedly used a doping cocktail that he concocted himself and named after a popular Soviet-era soft drink, ‘Duchess Cocktail.’

On June 18, 2016, Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal case against Rodchenkov on charges of power abuse. On September 21, 2017 Moscow’s Basmanny District Court arrested him in absentia.

In November 2017, the Russian Investigative Committee announced that it would seek the extradition of Rodchenkov, who absconded to the United States in 2015. In addition, an obstruction of justice charges was filed against him. He was also put on the international wanted list.