Uninvited Athletes from Russia Battling in Court, But Stolbova & Klimov Still Wouldn’t Go
Court of Arbitration for Sport takes hearings for Russian athletes down to the wire; Stolbova & Klimov now saying they won’t go to the Olympics anyway.
Normally at this point, with the first Olympic events starting in less than twelve hours, the rosters are settled. But this was doomed to be a very abnormal Games from about the time the International Olympic Committee banned the official Russian team, but declared they’d let some athletes from Russia compete at neutrals. The implication was that the clean athletes would be allowed to participate. Naturally, people got angry when they then refused invitations for a number of athletes who, officially at least, had no allegations made against them, including pairs skater Ksenia Stolbova and ice dancer Ivan Bukin.
Matters only got worse this weekend, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport mostly invalidated the verdicts of the Oswald Commission, which had exacted penalties on those athletes it deemed likely to have participated in the state-sponsored doping program carried out in Sochi. The decision was largely met with outrage outside Russia, and the results of it could be ugly. There’s little doubt the program existed, and it seems likely the sanctioned athletes were the participants. It is now all too possible a number of them would get away with what they did scot-free, while possibly innocent athletes like Stolbova and Bukin would pay the price. In short, we could see this whole affair have the worst of all possible outcomes.
Besides yet another appeal, the IOC had one immediate weapon to wield against them: they still refused to invite any of them to PyeongChang, although over half of them wouldn’t have gone anyway. But those athletes uninvited, seeing they had a possibly sympathetic ear at the court, have now filed suit to have the IOC forced to let them in. CAS heard arguments in the case of those athletes demanding invites to the Olympic Games, and initially we were even hoping for a decision to have come out by now. However, they’ve decided they need another hearing, and now the decision isn’t expected until at least tomorrow.
That’s after Olympic events begin, and at the earliest only half a day before the Team Event in figure skating starts. The court has set the Opening Ceremony Friday evening as their deadline. They seem to not be thinking too much about the logistics of anything, having apparently decided that’s not their problem. The athletes, of course, have thought about it, and two of those affected are now claiming they can’t manage it. According to their coach Nina Mozer, Stolbova & partner Fedor Klimov have told both her and the Russian federation that even if they get the invite, they won’t go.
This seems a little surprising, since from the time the news of the ban broke they’ve talked about fighting it, and most assumed they’d have kept themselves ready. But Mozer in her explanation spoke not of being prepared practically, but of not being up to it after the humiliation they’ve gone through. Given Stolbova’s history and general image, that by itself is very unexpected. It seems this whole ordeal has been very hard on her indeed. It probably didn’t help that unlike with Bukin, there have been rumors that she was the unnamed athlete cited in one report on Russian doping, which means her reputation has now taken a much harder hit than his. One supposes she might be guilty. But if she isn’t, that means the IOC may have broken an innocent athlete.
Of course, if she’s cleared tomorrow, it may not be impossible for she & Klimov to change their minds. They’ve probably missed the Team Event at this point, but they could still show up for the individual.
What Alexandra Stepanova & Bukin will do should he be cleared we don’t yet know. The only word we have on them right now is that Ilia Averbuch has offered them a place in his ice shows before the World Championships, which they are still scheduled to attend. He spoke of giving them support. One hopes he’d be happy to see them off to the Olympics if they get the chance. They too might not be able to make the Team Event, but the individual ice dance event doesn’t start until the 19th, giving them plenty of time to get to Korea.