Russian appeal against Olympic sanctions set to be heard by top sports court

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – The highest court in global sport on Friday was set to hear a Russian appeal against sanctions that bar its National Olympic Committee (NOC) from receiving funding and being associated with the Olympic movement.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in October for recognising regional Olympic councils for Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

It said the move constituted a breach of the Olympic Charter because it violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine’s NOC.

Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation’, has denounced the measure as politically motivated.

In its appeal at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), ROC has asked for the ban to be revoked and that it be recognised as a fully-fledged NOC, with all the prerogatives the status entails.

Prior to Friday’s hearing, which will be held by video link, CAS said it was unclear when a decision — which will be final and binding — would be rendered.

In a separate decision made in December, the IOC said Russians and Belarusians who qualify for this year’s Paris Olympics could take part as neutrals without their national flags, emblems or anthems.

This adds to a long list of Games in which Russian athletes have been left without their flag or anthem due to major doping scandals.

Russians and Belarusians had initially been banned from competing internationally following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, for which Belarus has been used as a staging ground.

In March, however, the IOC recommended that international sports federations allow Russian and Belarusian competitors to return and they have since done so in most events.

The neutral athletes at Paris 2024 will compete only in individual sports and no teams for Russia or Belarus will be allowed, the IOC said.

Athletes who actively support the war in Ukraine are not eligible, nor are those contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military.

President Vladimir Putin said last month he supported Russians competing at the Paris Games but that the country should ponder whether it should compete at all if the event is designed to portray Russian sport as “dying”.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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