Ski federation unable to stop Russians from World Cup opener

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2014 file photo taken with slow shutter speed, athletes pass the Olympic rings during the men's 50K cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. World Anti-Doping Agency investigations into doping haven't encouraged Russian athletes to speak out about abuses, but instead, there is a public hunt for whistleblowers, as Tuesday Nov. 14, 2017, Russia seems to move closer to a ban from the upcoming Winter Olympics.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, FILE)

The International Ski Federation says it cannot stop Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics from competing in World Cup races this weekend

GENEVA — Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics can compete in World Cup races this weekend because the International Ski Federation has been unable to prosecute its own cases in time.

Six Russians, including two medalists from Sochi, were disqualified from the 2014 Games this month and banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC.

FIS had previously blocked all six from competing with interim suspensions, but those expired on Oct. 31. The International Olympic Committee judging panel then reached its verdicts this month.

However, FIS said Thursday that its own judicial body lacks key IOC documents to process cases.

"Consequently, the FIS Doping Panel is obliged to wait until the IOC Disciplinary Commission reasoned decisions are submitted with details of the evidence relied on," said the governing body, which is responsible for imposing competition bans.

"As a consequence the active athletes are eligible to compete in FIS including World Cup competitions for the time being," FIS said.

The World Cup season for men and women begins Friday in Ruka, Finland, with sprint and long-distance racing.

Organizers had not published starting lists Thursday for the three-day meeting and it was unclear which of the six intend to start.

Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin both won multiple medals in Sochi but were stripped by the IOC. The others suspended by the IOC were Evgeny Belov, Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova.

FIS said rules governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency meant it could not re-impose interim bans without "a specific allegation" plus evidence.

Attempting to assure cross-country skiers they will not be competing against doped rivals, FIS said an additional and independent testing program for Russians has been in operation since June and has taken about 250 blood and urine samples.

The three-man IOC disciplinary panel — chaired by Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer and member of the Olympic body's executive board — has not issued detailed reasons for judgments in 10 cases from Sochi so far completed in cross-country skiing and skeleton.

Without positive doping tests, the panel used evidence of state-backed cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles in the Sochi laboratory first gathered last year by WADA investigator Richard McLaren.

At least 18 more Russian athletes are having their cases prosecuted in an ongoing series of hearings in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On Wednesday, the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said it would update "within the next days" action against four Russians, including the men's gold medalist and women's bronze medalist in Sochi.

Bronze medalist Elena Nikitina won a skeleton World Cup race last weekend in Park City, Utah — a result which may soon be overturned by the IBSF.

All the Russian athletes disqualified by the IOC can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Dec. 5, IOC President Thomas Bach will announce after a board meeting if the Russian team will be banned from the 2018 Olympics, which open on Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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