GENEVA (AP) — In a landmark legal ruling, 28 Russian athletes had their disqualifications from the 2014 Sochi Olympics for doping overturned on Thursday.
Some of them will now seek late entries to this month’s Pyeongchang Games because the Court of Arbitration for Sport also canceled their life bans from the Olympics.
Still, CAS did not entirely exonerate the 28. And by upholding the disqualifications of 11 others, the judges did seem to believe there was orchestrated doping four years ago in Sochi.
Here is a look at the case, which is likely to create more uncertainty and legal turmoil in the days before the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Feb. 9:
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WHAT WAS THE ALLEGATION?
Two investigations by International Olympic Committee panels concluded late last year that Russia operated a systematic doping program at the 2014 Sochi Games, where the host nation topped the medals table.
It was “an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, who has long been seen as an ally of Russia.
The scale of Russian doping had been detailed since 2013 by media reports, a key German television documentary and World Anti-Doping Agency investigators.
Specific claims of a Sochi doping scheme were made in May 2016 by Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov and verified by WADA-appointed investigator Richard McLaren. Still, the majority of Russian athletes were allowed to compete at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
WHAT WAS THE EVIDENCE?
Rodchenkov said a complex urine-swapping scheme was performed at the Sochi Olympic drug-testing laboratory. The IOC panel found him to be a persuasive witness.
Athletes who were using a fast-acting cocktail of steroids had their tainted samples swapped for clean urine that had been stored weeks or months earlier. Rodchenkov claimed state agencies kept a list of athletes on the “Duchess” cocktail.
The key was forcing open supposedly tamper-proof sample bottles using a method Rodchenkov said was perfected by Russia’s security service, known as the FSB.
McLaren verified the claims by detailing scratches and marks on the glass bottles.
In some re-tests last year, the clean urine had abnormal levels of salt added to make the samples seem more credible. In others, the DNA did not match the athlete’s.
WHY DID ONLY SOME ATHLETES WIN APPEALS?
The CAS judges gave urgent verdicts but not detailed legal reasons on Thursday. They appeared to be prepared only to accept evidence of the salt and DNA irregularities.
“That’s the difference between the athletes, the high level of salt in their urine samples,” Philippe Baertsch, a lawyer for the athletes, told The Associated Press.
Baertsch even disputed the DNA evidence, saying the “very low amount of foreign DNA” could be due to contamination.
In the published ruling of the IOC panel’s investigation of hockey player Anna Shibanova, one of her urine samples in Sochi was revealed to have the DNA of “at least three males and one female.”
Rodchenkov testified from the United States — where he is in a witness protection program and cooperating with the FBI — in the CAS hearings in Geneva last week.
Some of his testimony, including the “Duchess” list, doesn’t seem to have convinced the judges.
“Rodchenkov does not distinguish between his factual knowledge and his conclusions from what he believes the plan was,” said Christof Wieschemann, a lawyer for cross-country skiing gold medalist Alexander Legkov.
Legkov’s disqualification was overturned.
The two CAS panels included a total of four judges who needed only to be “comfortably satisfied” by the evidence to convict in civil law cases.
Instead, the IOC noted, they appeared to apply a higher burden of proof, as if in a criminal case.
WHICH ATHLETES WON THEIR CASE?
Bobsled: Dmitry Trunenkov, Aleksei Negodailo (both won gold in four-man event, but medal stripped in Zubkov case) Olga Stulneva, Liudmila Udobkina.
Skeleton: Alexander Tretiakov (gold), Sergei Chudinov, Elena Nikitina (bronze), Olga Potylitsyna, Maria Orlova.
Cross-country skiing: Alexander Legkov (gold in 50-kilometer race; silver in 4x10K relay), Evgeniy Belov, Maxim Vylegzhanin (silver in 50-kilometer race, 4x10K relay and team sprint), Alexey Petukhov, Nikita Kryukov (silver in team sprint), Alexander Bessmertnykh (silver in 4x10K relay), Evgenia Shapovalova, Natalia Matveeva.
Hockey: Ekaterina Lebedeva, Ekaterina Pashkevich, Tatiana Burina, Anna Shchukina, Ekaterina Smolentseva.
Luge: Tatyana Ivanova, Albert Demchenko.
Speedskating: Olga Fatkulina (silver in 500 meters), Alexander Rumyantsev, Ivan Skobrev, Artem Kuznetsov.
WHO IS STILL DISQUALIFIED?
Bobsled: Alexander Zubkov (gold in two-man and four-man), Alexey Voevoda (gold in two-man), Alexander Kasyanov, Aleksei Pushkarev, Ilvir Khuzin.
Cross-country skiing: Julia Ivanova, Yulia Chekaleva, Anastasia Dotsenko.
Hockey: Galina Skiba, Anna Shibanova, Inna Dyubanok.
The IOC has said the 28 athletes who won their appeals are not sure to be invited to join the neutral “Olympic Athletes from Russia” team in South Korea.
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said they could go back to CAS to force the IOC to invite them. However, the Switzerland-based IOC said it will consider an appeal to the Swiss supreme court to challenge the CAS rulings.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org