Russian Skeleton Athlete Suspensions Lifted

From Lausanne, SUI

During the holiday break, the IBSF suspended Russian athletes Elena Nikitina, Maria Orlova, Olga Potylitsyna, and Alexandr Tretiakov as part of the fallout from the second McLaren Report. 

In the report, pages of information tied not just the Russian skeleton program to issues with doping control, but the entire Russian Olympic sport program to an institutionalized doping conspiracy from their highest levels down.

Per the IBSF rules, the suspended athletes requested a hearing, and received one on January 3, 2017. As a result of that hearing, the IBSF has lifted the suspensions of the Russian skeleton athletes.

The main point of the Hearing Panel’s conclusion (in full below) was that while the McLaren Report gives ample suspicion, there’s currently little evidence that’s been presented that the athletes themselves had anything to do with the doping control tampering as laid out in the McLaren Report.

The statement goes on to say that the IBSF supports the IOC’s investigation into the Russian doping scandal and will reconsider “position of the athletes” in respect to said investigation.

The IBSF looks to be following due process for the athletes based on its own Anti-Doping Rules, in which athletes are given the benefit of the doubt and are innocent until proven guilty. While there is clearly a lot of evidence brought forth in the McLaren Report regarding Russia’s handling of their doping control, the IBSF appears to be deferring to the IOC’s investigation before deciding how the Russian athletes should be handled going forward.

Until an investigation can be concluded, though, expect the IBSF to keep events (including World and European Cups) out of Russia until an IOC investigation can be completed.

Below is the full statement from the IBSF:

IBSF lifts the Provisional Suspension of Four Russian Skeleton Athletes after Hearing

On December 22, 2016 the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) received a letter from the lnternational Olympic Committee informing that it has opened investigations related to an alleged anti-doping rule violation of the Athletes in connection with the Olympic Winter Games 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

The IBSF informed each of the Athletes by individual letters on December 30, 2016 that they are provisionally suspended forthwith from that day in accordance with article 7.9 of the IBSF Anti-Doping Rules (ADR), version January 1,2015.

The Athletes have requested by email on January 2,2017 in accordance with article 7.9.3 of the IBSF ADR the opportunity for a Provisional Hearing on a timely basis after imposition of the Provisional Suspension. The Provisional Hearing was conducted on January 3, 2017 by Dolf Segaar (Chairman), Dr.Alessia di Gianfrancesco and Prof.Dr.Ian Blackshaw.

The Hearing Panel came to the following conclusion (in parts):
1. Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to a fair trial and, in particular, guarantees the presumption of innocence until proved guilty. Article 3.1 of the ADR of the IBSF puts in that context the burden of proof on the IBSF.

2. The Doping Hearing Panel comes to the conclusion that Mclaren Report ll provides sufficient reason to conduct further investigation by both the IOC and the IBSF into the role of the Athletes in “tampering or attempted tampering of any Doping Control”, as being in line with article 3.1 of the ADR of the IBSF, but at the same time it comes to the conclusion that at this very moment there is not (yet) sufficient evidence against the Athletes that would justify the provisional suspension. The Doping Hearing Panel invites the IOC to share any outcome of its investigation with the IBSF in order to potentially reconsider the position of the Athletes in this respect.

3. The Doping Hearing Panel of the IBSF concludes therefore to lift the provisional suspension of Elena Nikitina, Maria Orlova, Olga Potylitsyna, and Aleksandr Tretiakov, with immediate effect as of the date of signing of this decision, with reference to article 7.9.3 sub 2(c) of the ADR of the IBSF. This Decision of the Panel is entirely without prejudice to the pending investigation of the IOC and does not, in any way whatsoever, preempt the outcome of such
investigation. The athletes and the Bobsleigh Federation of Russia (BFR) have been informed accordingly and may
therefore start again at IBSF sanctioned races with immediate effect.

All parties involved have confirmed their full support with regard to the investigations currently going on by the IOC. The IBSF will work closely with the IOC and WADA to assist in this matter.