Sports tribunal opens Rio's doors to more Russian dopers

Fri Aug 5, 2016 12:18pm EDT
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By Jack Stubbs and Karolos Grohmann

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A global sporting tribunal opened the door wider to Russian participation at the Rio Olympic Games on Thursday, ruling that an Olympic ban on two Russian rowers and a swimmer with histories of doping was unenforceable.

The decision, on the eve of the opening ceremony, could invite a dozen more appeals against the ban from Russian competitors, according to the tribunal's chief, and underlines Russian arguments that the ban lacks legal justification.

"We can do an appeal in 24 hours, so anything is possible," Matthieu Reeb, secretary-general of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), told Reuters when asked if there was enough time for other athletes to have their ban overturned.

"It's a first step," he said, referring to the Thursday's rulings. "There's now potentially a way to get through."

In response to evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia, the IOC last month directed sports federations to allow Russian athletes to compete only if they met certain criteria, including a clean doping past. Dozens of athletes were later excluded.

One of the athletes who could take advantage of the new ruling is whistleblower Yulia Stepanova who, together with her husband, ignited the Russian doping scandal by revealing the extent of the state-backed doping program.

Stepanova had been cleared to compete by the world athletics federation, which praised her courage in the affair, but the IOC refused to allow her to run in Rio due to her own doping past.

Russian officials in Rio could not be immediately reached for comment, but earlier the head of Russia's Olympic committee told reporters in the host city that the ban was discriminatory.   Continued...

Athletics - European championships - Women's 800m qualifiaction - Amsterdam - 6/7/16 Yulia Stepanova of Russia competes. REUTERS/Michael Kooren - RTX2JZVC