The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld 28 and partially upheld 11 of the 39 appeals from Russian athletes to have their lifetime Olympic bans overturned. The news is a big blow to the IOC and WADA.
The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) has delivered a hammer blow to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by upholding, or partially upholding, appeals from 39 Russian athletes against Olympic life bans.
The IOC banned the Russians for doping breaches at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 after an independent report commissioned by WADA said there was a state-run doping program in Russia. But CAS has ruled that the IOC had not proved that 28 of the athletes had individually been part of the doping scheme.
"Both CAS panels unanimously found that the evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case," a CAS statement said.
"In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes concerned. With respect to these 28 athletes, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 are reinstated.
"In 11 cases, the evidence collected was found to be sufficient to establish an individual anti-doping rule violation. The IOC decisions in these matters are confirmed, with one exception. The athletes are declared ineligible for the next edition of the Olympic Winter Games (i.e. Pyeongchang 2018) instead of a life ban from all Olympic Games."
Those whose results have been reinstated at the Sochi 2014 Olympics include skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov and cross-country ski gold medalist Alexander Legkov.
Those cleared to compete in this month's Pyeongchang Winter Games (Feb. 9 - 25) may still not take up their places.
The IOC had banned Russia as a nation from taking part at the Games as result of allegations of systematic doping but has allowed individual Russian athletes to compete if they have been deemed clean through a specific IOC process.
The IOC stressed in a statement that the CAS ruling did not "automatically" confer a Pyeongchang invitation on the 28 athletes. It said the fact CAS had confirmed doping violations by 11 athletes "clearly demonstrates once more the existence of a systematic manipulation" at Sochi and that the IOC regrets CAS did not apply this "proven existence" for the other 28.
The IOC did not rule out appealing the CAS ruling to a federal tribunal in Switzerland where both organizations are based.
CAS, world sport's highest appeals court, started proceedings with hearings last week in Geneva, which included testimony from whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory who now lives at a secret location in the United States.
Every athlete attended the hearing, except two who were not available, and were heard individually.
Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov said he was happy that the CAS ruling had restored Russian athletes' "good name and returned their medals," Interfax news agency reported.
CAS statement listing successful Russian athlete appeals