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28 doping bans lifted

Twenty-eight Russian athletes had their Olympic doping bans overturned Thursday, throwing the International Olympic Committee's policy on the country into turmoil.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling was set to reinstate seven Russian medals from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, including gold in men's skeleton and men's 50-kilometre cross-country skiing.

"This does not mean that these 28 athletes are declared innocent, but in their case, due to insufficient evidence, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi are reinstated," CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said in Pyeongchang.

The IOC said it had taken note of the CAS decision "with satisfaction on the one hand and disappointment on the other," adding the decision "may have a serious impact on the future fight against doping."

The 28 who had their bans lifted could now seek late entry into the Pyeongchang Olympics, but the IOC said "not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation."

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said the government would back further legal action to allow the athletes in Thursday's decisions to compete in Pyeongchang.

"If the IOC does not accept them, then we will support them in cases which could be filed at CAS and other legal instances," Mutko said in televised comments.

Thursday's decision could impact Canada's medal count in Sochi. The Canadian luge team was expected to get upgraded to bronze — the first Olympic medal for Canada in the sport — after Russians Albert Demchenko and Tatiana Ivanova were stripped of their results and received lifetime bans. Both were members of the squad that won silver in the team event in Sochi, where Canada finished fourth.

Both Russians had their suspensions reversed and results reinstated by CAS on Thursday.

"Above anything else, this is a very very very dark day for the Olympics," Canadian luger Sam Edney, who would have received a bronze medal, said via Twitter. "AND, this is a very very very dark day for Clean Sport ... if there is such a thing anymore."

Eleven more Russians were ruled Thursday to have been guilty of doping but had lifetime bans imposed by an IOC disciplinary panel two months ago cut to a ban only from the Pyeongchang Games, which open next week.

"Vigorous actions in defending rights in court are justified and can be effective and should continue," said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We're glad for our athletes."



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