The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has announced that the provisional suspension imposed on six Russian cross-country skiers will remain in place until at least October 31.
In December, the International Ski Federation (FIS) temporarily banned Olympic champion Alexander Legkov, Evgeniy Belov, Alexey Petukhov, Evgenia Shapovalova, Maxim Vylegzhanin, and Julia Ivanova after they were linked to doping offences in the second part of the McLaren Report. This followed start of an investigation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after it was alleged by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping scheme to tamper with and manipulate doping samples at their home Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
Legkov was a member of the silver medal winning 4x10km relay quartet and won the Olympic 50 kilometers freestyle event on home snow at Sochi 2014. Belov also competed in Sochi and finished 18th in the skiathlon event. Vylegzhanin won three silver medals in Sochi, in the team sprint, the 50km freestyle and the 4x10km relay.
In January, an appeal made to the FIS Doping Panel was dismissed by the governing body after which cases were filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Five of the skiers requested a hearing and Ivanova instead considered using written evidence. The CAS decided to give time for both the FIS and the IOC to deliver the findings of their investigations, but the existing suspensions cannot be kept in place after October 31. All of the athletes will be free to compete again after October 31 unless a new suspension against one or more of the skiers for a doping offence is issued by the FIS.
Chaired by Denis Oswald and former Swiss Confederation President Samuel Schmid, two Swiss-run IOC Commissions are currently analyzing the evidence in the McLaren Report.
A CAS statement said the panels in charge of these matters have noted that the reports following the investigations conducted by a special IOC Commission would be delivered during the summer period and found that it was necessary to allow the FIS time to complete its own investigation before issuing its final decisions concerning the six athletes.
The statement further reads that the CAS panels have maintained the provisional suspension imposed on each athlete until October 31, 2017 at the latest, unless any ADRV sanction is imposed against them by the FIS before that date. It was also said that they will be restored to the status quo ante prevailing at the time of the imposition of the temporary suspension should the athletes not be found to have committed any ADRV before that date. The statement by CAS also reads that a further provisional suspension may be imposed on the athletes by the FIS after that date, if the facts and circumstances so merit, and would be subject to appeal.
Christof Wieschemann, a German lawyer representing Legkov and Belov, has persistently claimed that the evidence against his client in the McLaren Report was "inconsistent" and has repeatedly defended his clients. Christof said we, depending on our impression, assume that the CAS panel may share some of our reasonable doubts about any conjunction between the swapped samples and the knowledge or involvement of individual athletes.
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