PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) Last-ditch appeal hearings started Thursday for Russian athletes seeking admission to the Pyeongchang Olympics, one day before the opening ceremony, as the total number of appeals hit 60.
The first competitions of the games – including a U.S.-Russia curling match – had already started when the Court of Arbitration for Sport resumed its hearings at a luxury resort in the mountains near Pyeongchang.
The cases being heard concern 45 Russian athletes and two coaches, but CAS said Thursday it will also hear new Russian cases involving six athletes and seven support staff.
In attendance for the hearing are Elena Nikitina, the 2014 bronze medalist in women’s skeleton, and Tatiana Ivanova, a luger who won silver in the team event in 2014.
On her way to the hearing, Nikitina said she was optimistic about winning the case. Asked if she would fight to the end, she said: ”Yes, that’s what we’re doing.”
The Russians are seeking to overturn the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to invite them to the games. If they win, it would force the IOC to accept athletes it considers to be linked to doping offenses.
The IOC won’t comment on individual cases, but says its invitation process was based on evidence from a newly obtained Moscow laboratory database detailing doping in previous years.
Other athletes whose cases will be heard include Viktor Ahn, a six-time Olympic gold medalist in short-track speedskating, and Alexander Legkov, a cross-country skiing gold medalist.
Sergei Parkhomenko, the general secretary of the Russian Bobsled Federation, said athletes from his team were training in Siberia, ready to fly to South Korea at a moment’s notice if CAS gives them the green light.
”We’re hoping for a fair and logical decision from the court,” he said. ”If there’s a positive ruling, they’ll fly in.”
Russian officials and athletes have indicated that not all of those who have filed appeals plan to compete if they win. Some are reportedly no longer in training, while others may not be included on full rosters in sports like hockey.
The six athletes who filed an appeal Thursday include two world champion speedskaters, Denis Yuskov and Pavel Kulizhnikov, plus athletes from biathlon and ski jumping.
All six were originally refused invitations to compete by the IOC. All have previously served bans of various lengths for failed doping tests. The IOC had said it wouldn’t invite athletes previously banned for doping.
CAS had previously said it didn’t plan to hear their case until after the Olympics.
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