‘Citizenship-based discrimination': Russian athletes file lawsuit against IOC

‘Citizenship-based discrimination': Russian athletes file lawsuit against IOC
Thirty-two Russian athletes have filed a lawsuit against the International Olympic Committee (IOC), insisting that the body’s decision to prohibit them from competing at the 2018 Winter Games was based on discriminatory grounds.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed on Tuesday that the Ad Hoc Division of CAS “has opened an arbitration procedure following an urgent application filed by 32 Russian athletes.”

The suit against the Olympic body was initiated by lawyers following the IOC’s refusal to invite 13 athletes, all with clean doping histories, to the upcoming Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, despite their lifetime bans being overturned earlier by CAS.

READ MORE: Top sports court overturns IOC’s ban on 28 Russian athletes in groundbreaking ruling

The IOC called the CAS decision “extremely disappointing and surprising,” adding that it will have a “very negative” impact on the global fight against doping.

On Monday, the Olympic governing body denied invitations to 13 Russian athletes and two coaches to the 2018 Games. The IOC said that after conducting detailed analyses of the case, the Invitation Review Panel decided that “no additional invitations will be extended” to the athletes cleared by CAS.

In response to the IOC’s actions, 32 banned Russian national team members, including Sochi Olympic champions short track skater Viktor Ahn and biathlete Anton Shipulin, filed a lawsuit with the Ad Hoc Division of CAS to challenge their non-invitation.

Swiss law company Schellenberg Wittmer, which acts in the interests of the Russian team, stated that the invitation criteria applied to the Russian athletes was non-transparent and illegitimate. It also outlined that citizenship discrimination, inobservance of the CAS verdict, and damage inflicted to the athletes’ reputation, dignity and professional career were the grounds for opening legal procedures.

The athletes requested interim measures to conduct the hearing in a Lausanne court on February 7.

So far, a total of 169 Russian athletes have been named eligible for the PyeongChang Games. IOC president Thomas Bach called the invited Russian athletes “ambassadors of a new generation” who “can be the new role models for a change of culture in Russian sport."

Russians allowed to participate at the Olympics are required to compete under the name of ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ (OAR) following the IOC’s ruling to disqualify Russia as a country from the Games.

The body also banned all Russian national emblems, including the flag and coat of arms, obliging the athletes to compete in a neutral uniform containing no indication of their national affiliation.

READ MORE: Russian Olympic Committee banned from 2018 Winter Games, athletes allowed to compete as neutrals

The Olympic anthem will be played in PyeongChang to honor any victories by Russian competitors.

OAR members are also prohibited from accepting the national flag from the crowd, showing national symbols on social media, and singing the national anthem inside an Olympic venue.