Denis Oswald, the head of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) probe into doping at the 2014 Sochi Games, has described as “shocking” a recent ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that lifted Olympic doping bans for 28 Russian athletes.
The CAS decision was “very surprising and shocking for us because we were convinced that we had presented solid evidence” Oswald told an IOC session on Tuesday at PyeongChang in South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Games begin on Friday.
The Lausanne-based court said last week that there was insufficient evidence of anti-doping violations against 28 Russian athletes banned for life by the IOC as part of its investigation into doping at the Winter Olympics four years ago.
“For 28 cases, the appeal was accepted and our decision annulled,” Oswald said. “I have difficulty explaining it because I don’t understand it myself.”
The IOC has banned Russia from the PyeongChang Winter Olympics over “systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system in Sochi, but 169 athletes with no history of doping have been invited to compete as neutrals.
Criminal standards of proof
Oswald said CAS arbitrators had applied criminal standards of proof that made it far more difficult to prove wrongdoing. The IOC is considering whether to appeal the CAS decision at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
“I feel that the CAS arbitrators have applied a level of evidence that has never been used in the past by the CAS or the Swiss Federal Court,” Oswald said, adding that this was not a criminal trial “where the accused must benefit from any doubt”.
A lawyer by profession and a member of the IOC Executive Board, Oswald presided over the IOC Disciplinary Commission alongside Tony Estanguet and suspended 43 Russian athletes for life and disqualified them from the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, depriving them of their medals.
After the CAS decision, Russia’s Olympic Committee requested that 13 active athletes and two who had become coaches should be allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Games but the IOC has refused to extend invitations to them.