Sports court puts Russian appeal on fast track
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The highest court in sports will use a fast-track procedure to hear Russia's appeal against the ban on its track and field athletes from the Olympics, saying Monday that a ruling would be issued on July 21.
The Russian Olympic Committee and track and field's world governing body, the IAAF, said Sunday that Russia's appeal on behalf of 68 athletes would be heard July 19 at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
''The parties have agreed to an expedited procedure which should conclude on 21 July 2016 with the issuance of the final decision,'' CAS said in a statement Monday.
The Olympics open in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5.
The appeal focuses on a challenge to the rule that athletes cannot compete internationally if their national track and field federation is suspended, as Russia's is. It does not seek to overturn the suspension of Russia's federation.
CAS said the appeal seeks to secure Olympic participation for ''any Russian athlete who is not currently the subject of any period of ineligibility for the commission of an anti-doping rule violation.''
Russian officials have said the IAAF ban unfairly excludes athletes who have not been linked to doping. The IAAF, however, says the entire Russian system has been corrupted by widespread doping, and it is impossible to prove who is clean.
The Russian committee's legal head, Alexandra Brilliantova, said the 68 athletes covered by the appeal were ''of absolutely flawless reputation, not involved in doping scandals, not linked to certain coaches.''
Brilliantova acknowledged the list had been cut from 69 athletes after Olympic high jump champion Anna Chicherova was provisionally suspended after her 2008 Olympic sample came back positive in retesting.
The 68, chosen by the suspended Russian track federation, were also in an international testing pool and met relevant qualifying standards in their events, Brilliantova said.
The IAAF suspended Russia in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency report detailed widespread, state-sponsored doping in Russian track and field. The ban was upheld by the IAAF in a vote last month
The IAAF approved a new rule allowing Russians to apply to compete as ''neutral athletes'' in Rio if they can show they have been based outside the country and subject to testing from a respected, non-Russian anti-doping agency.
More than 80 Russians have applied for this procedure but only a handful are likely to be eligible.
The IAAF has already approved an application from Russian athlete and whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, whose testimony of doping within the Russian team, including undercover footage of apparent doping confessions, formed an important part of the evidence against Russia in the WADA investigation.
Stepanova is due to return to competition Wednesday at the European championships in Amsterdam, racing in the 800 meters as a ''neutral athlete'' not representing a particular country.