Four years ago, during the Sochi Olympics, allegations of doping were brought against Russia for a massive, state-sponsored doping system.
When the Court of Arbitration for Sport gave 28 Russian athletes – including 13 who are still competing, as well as two current coaches -- a surprising reprieve last week, clearing the athletes of their doping punishments from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it did so with an important caveat:
"This does not mean that these … athletes are declared innocent,” CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said, “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 CAS decision caught the IOC by surprise, and appeared to harden the organization’s resolve against the 13 Russian athletes.
IOC President Thomas Bach reiterated at a Sunday news conference that CAS’s decision was not final, that the IOC does the inviting to the Olympics, and that it wanted to see what CAS was thinking before issuing a final ruling.
Problem was, CAS’s rationale for clearing the Russians – its “reasoned decision” – might not be ready until the end of February, after the Olympics are over.
After completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what an independent investigation revealed in 2016, the I.O.C. banned Russian officials and athletes linked to the doping program but said it would allow individuals it deemed “clean” to participate as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” That group of almost 170 athletes is one of the largest contingents at Pyeongchang, but it is 63 fewer players than the 232 athletes Russia had in Sochi..