Twenty-eight Russian athletes have had their Olympic doping bans overturned by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The CAS upheld appeals from 28 out of 39 Russian athletes who were given lifetime Olympic bans for doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Games, it said on Thursday.
CAS external linksaid that in the 28 cases, the IOC-imposed sanctions had been annulled due to insufficient evidence and their results at the Sochi Games had been reinstated. CAS confirmed that anti-doping violations had been committed in 11 other cases but reduced the life bans from the Olympic Games to a ban from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, which open next week.
Following the ruling CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said: "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."
The IOC confirmed that because it had suspended the Russian Olympic Committee in December after evidence emerged of widespread doping, Russian athletes could only participate with its permission.
"Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation,” the IOC said in a statementexternal link. It says it could challenge the CAS rulings at Switzerland's supreme court.
An Olympic disciplinary panel, chaired by IOC executive board member Denis Oswald, last year investigated 46 Russian athletes and found 43 guilty of complicity in a Sochi doping program. Two CAS appeal panels heard 39 of those cases last week in Geneva.
The CAS judges did not agree with the IOC panels that it was proven many individuals had their steroid-tainted samples swapped for clean urine at the Sochi testing laboratory.