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11 February 2018, 05:00 | Tracey Rhodes
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has affirmed a decision that 47 Russian athletes and coaches should not be allowed to participate in the Winter Olympics, weighing in on the matter with just hours to go before Pyeongchang holds its opening ceremony for almost 3,000 athletes from around the world.
Russia was banned from taking part in the Games in December after the International Olympic Committee found the country had engaged in "systemic manipulation" of anti-doping rules, though Russian athletes who could prove they were clean were "invited" to compete as OARs.
Or so claims a representative of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, which is definitely not the same as the Russian Olympic team, despite its members having arrived carrying suitcases with the word "RUSSIA" stamped on them.
Even after losing in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Russians still have 168 athletes competing in South Korea - and a good shot at capturing gold in two of the highest-profile events: men's hockey and women's figure skating.
The IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency welcomed the ruling.
Nikitina told TASS: "I'm very disappointed".
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Russia's suspension in December follows the uncovering of a systemic doping conspiracy culminating at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, where host nation Russian Federation topped the medals table.
The IOC confirmed that only athletes who have "fulfilled the pre-games testing requirements", including the IRP's criteria, "as well as the required reanalysis from stored samples", would be allowed to compete at the Games.
CAS said the Russian side "did not demonstrate" that the process the International Olympic Committee put into place, two special panels to vet and independently review each individual application, was "carried out in a discriminatory, arbitrary or unfair manner".
The 47 athletes and coaches involved in the latest appeal had asked to be invited to the 2018 Games despite being left off the list of invitees who were cleared by a review panel.
The IOC won't comment on individual cases, but says its invitation process was based on evidence from a newly obtained Moscow laboratory database detailing doping in previous years.
Stephen Hess, an worldwide sports lawyer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said the decision was a victory for the IOC. According to Olympic Conduct Guidelines, they are not allowed to march under the Russian flag or wear Russia's colors or logos.
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"Today's decision by the CAS.is a small semblance of justice for clean athletes".
"We share the distress, uncertainty and frustration expressed by many athletes on the news of this ruling and believe this decision to be a massive setback for clean sport", the WADA athlete committee said.
Sir Hugh Robertson, the chair of the British Olympic Association, also stated his support for the decision: "It's clearly disappointing that we are still talking about this on the eve of a Winter Olympics", he said.
A week earlier, the players attended a reception for athletes with President Vladimir Putin, the only OARs there wearing Russian uniforms instead of the IOC-approved neutral tracksuits in red and gray.
"It's great because there's a place where they're always waiting for you, where they're always happy to see you", said Dmitry Davydov, a fan from St. Petersburg who was wrapped in the national flag.
Longtime IOC member and World Anti-Doping Agency founding president Richard Pound - another troublemaking Canuck - was the first to raise the issue this week.
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