The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) did one thing that the Russian skiers wanted: they issued a decision of some sort quickly, far more quickly than is typical in doping appeals.
Alexander Legkov, Maxim Vylegzhanin, Alexey Petukhov, Evgenia Shapovalova, Julia Ivanova, and Evgeniy Belov have been provisionally suspended by the International Ski Federation (FIS) since December. The six cross-country skiers are among a group of Russian athletes whose anti-doping samples from the 2014 Olympics were tampered with, according to an independent investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
In the six months since the provisional suspensions were enacted, FIS has not formally brought Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ARDV’s) against the six athletes. They were asking CAS to cancel their provisional suspensions.
CAS disagreed, but essentially gave FIS a deadline to bring a case forward.
“The CAS Panels in charge of the matters have decided to maintain the provisional suspensions imposed on the athletes until 31 October 2017, at the latest,” the tribunal wrote in a press release. “In the absence of any anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) having been assessed against any of the athletes so far, the temporary suspension shall lapse and the athletes shall be allowed to compete again. A further provisional suspension may be imposed on the athletes by the International Ski Federation (FIS) after that date, if the facts and circumstances so merit, and would be subject to appeal.”
While detailed minutes of the May 25 hearings for the Russian skiers were not released, CAS did give a glimpse into some of the evidence that may have been presented. Namely, FIS apparently provided a timeframe for their own investigation, and that was based on a separate timeline from the International Olympic Committee.
“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 tribunal wrote.
The skiers were not pleased.
“Of course, the whole situation is very angering,” Vylegzhanin told Sport-Express, according to a translation. “I would like to calmly train and prepare for the season, just knowing that it will happen. But apparently, we will have to get used to the idea that until October 31, we are in a special situation. At the same time, there is a hope that we will get the all-clear before the season…. Sometimes, during hard training, I have bad thoughts anyway, because of this whole situation. But I hope this will not interfere with my preparations for the season. The thoughts about the upcoming Olympic Games in Pyeongchang motivate me to work in full.”
The others are also training and planning to compete. Legkov reportedly ran a 32:10 10 k at a charity running race recently; both he and Petukhov recently posted cycling pictures from training camps on the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, Russian Ski Federation President Elena Valbe said in a separate interview with Sport-Express that FIS was allowing the suspended athletes to train with the Russian National Team, a major departure from normal rules for suspended athletes.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.