Olympic & Russian flags

Royal Marine John Jackson is a step closer to winning a retrospective Winter Olympics bronze medal after a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling.

The sergeant, who has served in the British military for 21 years, finished fifth at Sochi in 2014, along with team-mates Bruce Tasker, Stuart Benson and Joel Fearon.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has since disqualified the two Russian sleds who finished first and fourth, however, following a re-examination of the doping tests undertaken at the time.

Athletes from both sleds are among 11 whose doping violations were confirmed by CAS, although their appeals were partially upheld, meaning their life bans have been reduced to suspensions which cover this month's Games in Pyeongchang.

Alexander Legkov was the first athlete to be stripped of an Olympic medal after the Russian doping scandal 

The IOC has not officially reallocated the Sochi medals yet, but if confirmed the move would raise Britain's medal count to five and make the 2014 Games its most successful Winter Olympics.

Aleksandr Zubkov, the double Olympic bobsleigh champion and Russian flag-bearer in Sochi, is among the 11 whose anti-doping rule violations have been upheld, as have those of three members of Russia's second unit in the men's four-man bob.

The CAS upheld, however, the appeals of a further 28 Russians who were banned by the IOC for doping in 2014.

Sgt Jackson told Forces Network last month it won't be quite the same receiving an Olympic bronze medal four years on...

The decision to clear so many of the banned Russians is a huge blow to the IOC's approach to the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal and will be greeted with fury by athletes and anti-doping groups around the world.

Among those now cleared of cheating at Sochi 2014 are men's Olympic skeleton champion Aleksander Tretiakov, the current women's European and World Cup skeleton champion Elena Nikitina and Olympic cross-country skiing gold medallist Alexander Legkov.

One of the Russian athletes' chief accusers is the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, who fled to the United States in 2015 and became the main whistleblower in the Russian doping scandal.

A statement from his lawyer, Jim Walden, said the decision from CAS made it "harder for clean athletes to win".

"This panel's unfortunate decision provides a very small measure of punishment for some athletes but a complete 'get out of jail free card' for most. Thus, the CAS decision only emboldens cheaters, makes it harder for clean athletes to win, and provides yet another ill-gotten gain for the corrupt Russian doping system generally, and Putin specifically."

In a statement, the IOC greeted the decision from CAS with "satisfaction on the one hand and disappointment on the other".

While welcoming the ruling to confirm the doping violations committed by 11 athletes, the IOC said it "regrets very much - according to the CAS press release - the panels did not take this proven existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system into consideration for the other 28 cases.

"The CAS required an even higher threshold on the necessary level of evidence than the Oswald Commission and former CAS decisions."

The statement said this "may have a serious impact on the future fight against doping". It added:

"The IOC will analyse the reasoned decisions very carefully once they are available and consider consequences, including an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal."

The IOC also said that the 28 athletes cleared by CAS remained ineligible to compete in Pyeongchang due to the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee, which means Russian athletes may only compete on invitation by the IOC.

"The result of the CAS decision does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the Games," the statement said.

"Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation. In this context, it is also important to note that, in his press conference, the CAS secretary general insisted that the CAS decision '...does not mean that these 28 athletes are declared innocent'."

For its part, the CAS said: "Both CAS panels unanimously found that the evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case.

Court of Arbitration for Sport
The CAS is often referred to as "sport's supreme court". Picture: Fanny Schertzer

"In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes concerned. With respect to these 28 athletes, the appeals are upheld, the sanctions annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 are reinstated.

"In 11 cases, the evidence collected was found to be sufficient to establish an individual ADRV. The IOC decisions in these matters are confirmed, with one exception: the athletes are declared ineligible for the next edition of the Olympic Winter Games instead of a life ban from all Olympic Games."

The decision to lift the life ban was widely expected, as CAS has previously ruled against attempts to go beyond the sanctions allowed by the WADA Code before, but the 28 successful appeals throw the IOC's belated attempts to get tough with Russia into turmoil.

Sport's highest court added that its panels were not trying "to determine generally whether there was an organised scheme allowing the manipulation of doping control samples in the Sochi laboratory" but were only focused on whether there was enough evidence to ban individuals.

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