Russian appeal hearings end with no immediate decision

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2014, file photo, men's 1,000-meter short track speedskating gold medalist Viktor Ahn, of Russia, gestures while holding his medal during the medals ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Six-time Olympic gold medalist Ahn and three former NHL players are among 32 Russian athletes who filed appeals Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, seeking spots at the Pyeongchang Olympics.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) Forty-five Russian athletes are still waiting to hear if they will be allowed to compete at the Pyeongchang Olympics after their appeal hearing ended Thursday without a decision.

The first competitions of the games – including a U.S.-Russia curling match – had already started when the Court of Arbitration for Sport heard the cases at a luxury resort in the mountains near Pyeongchang.

”(A ruling is expected) within the next 24 hours,” said Philippe Baertsch, a lawyer for the Russians. ”We are hopeful that the panel will follow our argumentation and respect the rights of the athletes.”

The total number of appeals hit 60 on Thursday, the day before the opening ceremony. The cases heard Thursday concern 45 Russian athletes and two coaches, but CAS said it will also hear new Russian cases involving six athletes and seven support staff.

In attendance for the hearing were Elena Nikitina, the 2014 bronze medalist in women’s skeleton, and Tatiana Ivanova, a luger who won silver in the team event in 2014.

Leaving the hearing, Nikitina said the three arbiters – from Canada, Switzerland and Australia – ”were pleasant and we were listened to.”

”We can’t comment on what just happened at the panel. I’ll just say that we came here to defend our good name and we were fully listened to by the CAS panel,” said luge coach Albert Demchenko, who was at the hearing. ”All our documents and words were heard.”

The Russians are seeking to overturn the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to invite them to the games. If they win, it would force the IOC to accept athletes it considers to be linked to doping offenses.

The Russian team is formally banned, so they would have to compete as ”Olympic Athletes from Russia” in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag. With 168 IOC-approved athletes, it’s already one of the biggest teams in Pyeongchang.

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.

Other athletes whose cases will be heard include Viktor Ahn, a six-time Olympic gold medalist in short-track speedskating, and Alexander Legkov, a cross-country skiing gold medalist.

Sergei Parkhomenko, the general secretary of the Russian Bobsled Federation, said athletes from his team were training in Siberia, ready to fly to South Korea at a moment’s notice if CAS gives them the green light.

”We’re hoping for a fair and logical decision from the court,” he said. ”If there’s a positive ruling, they’ll fly in.”

Russian officials and athletes have indicated that not all of those who have filed appeals plan to compete if they win. Some are reportedly no longer in training, while others may not be included on full rosters in sports like hockey.

The six athletes who filed an appeal Thursday include two world champion speedskaters, Denis Yuskov and Pavel Kulizhnikov, plus athletes from biathlon and ski jumping.

All six were originally refused invitations to compete by the IOC. All have previously served bans of various lengths for failed doping tests. The IOC had said it wouldn’t invite athletes previously banned for doping.

CAS had previously said it didn’t plan to hear their case until after the Olympics.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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