Matthieu Reeb, CAS Secretary General. Photo: Felipe Dana/AP

With the Olympics a week away from kicking off in South Korea, a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has thrown the entire matter of retribution against Russian doping into further disarray. Last year, the IOC issued lifetime bans to 43 Russian athletes from the Sochi Olympics for participating in a state-run doping scheme. One of them chose not to appeal that decision but of those that did, three cases are still pending, 11 athletes had their bans reduced from a lifetime sentence to just the 2018 Olympics, and 28 had their bans overturned entirely. From the Associated Press:

“This does not mean that these 28 athletes are declared innocent, but in their case, due to insufficient evidence, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi are reinstated,” CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said in Pyeongchang.

Athletes from that group of 28 who medaled in Sochi and later had their results nullified will have their medals reinstated. The IOC’s planned ceremonies in South Korea for those non-Russian athletes who missed out on medaling in 2014 will likely be smaller.

In December, the IOC banned Russia from participating in Pyeongchang but earlier this week, 169 Russians had been granted special dispensation from the organizing body to compete as “Olympic athletes from Russia.” Now it’s facing an unprecedented complication. Should any of the unbanned athletes apply for entry into the Games, the IOC will have to make a last-minute ruling on athletes it had previously deemed cheaters. And it doesn’t seem to be siding with the appeals court just yet. “The result of the C.A.S. decision does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the Games,” the IOC said in a statement. “Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation.” Maybe a third, more convoluted category for those athletes participating in Pyeongchang will remedy the situation.

[Associated Press]