Sports court rejects Russian appeal against Olympic athletics ban

LAUSANNE: Sport's highest tribunal said on Thursday it had rejected Russia's appeal against the exclusion of its track and field athletes from the Olympic Games starting in Rio in 15 days' time, drawing swift condemnation from Moscow.

The decision increases the possibility that the International Olympic Committee will now ban Russia from all sports in Rio, a grave blow to a nation that prides itself on its status as a sporting superpower.

The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport said in a statement: "CAS rejects the claims/appeal of the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "I certainly regret such a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which refers to absolutely all of our athletes."

Russia had argued the blanket ban was unfair to individual athletes with no record of doping.

"The principle of collective responsibility is hardly acceptable," Peskov said.

Double Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva described the CAS decision as "the funeral of athletics".

Russian track and field athletes were banned from international competition in November after an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found rampant state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics.

The ban was imposed by the IAAF, the global governing body for athletics, which reconfirmed it last month, saying there were still considerable problems with anti-doping in Russia.

The appeal to CAS was launched by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and 68 Russian athletes who said they were being punished despite not having failed drugs tests, and that they should be eligible to compete in Rio.

On Monday, another WADA report revealed evidence of systematic and widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian competitors before and at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

This has prompted the IOC to consider banning Russia from Rio altogether.

The IOC is expected to reach a final decision on Sunday and has said it will take the CAS ruling into account.

The IAAF said it was pleased that CAS had supported its ban.

“While we are thankful that our rules and our power to uphold our rules and the anti-doping code have been supported, this is not a day for triumphant statements," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said.

"I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing. It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude."