MOSCOW (AP) — With a pair of gold medals at stake, a Russian court has issued a ruling that directly challenges the authority of the International Olympic Committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Moscow City Court ruled Wednesday that bobsledder Alexander Zubkov, who carried the Russian flag at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Games, should still be considered an Olympic champion despite having been stripped of his medals because of doping. A CAS ruling upholding his disqualification is not enforceable in Russia, the court said.
CAS, however, is the only valid arbiter for sports disputes at the games, according to the Olympic Charter. In rare instances, Switzerland’s supreme court can weigh in on matters of procedure.
“The CAS decision in this case is enforceable since there was no appeal filed with the Swiss Federal Tribunal within the period stipulated,” the IOC told The Associated Press in an email on Thursday. “The IOC will soon request the medals to be returned.”
The law firm representing Zubkov said the Moscow court found the CAS ruling violated Zubkov’s “constitutional rights” by placing too much of a burden on him to disprove the allegations against him.
Zubkov won the two-man and four-man bobsled events at the Sochi Olympics but he was disqualified by the IOC last year. The verdict was later upheld by CAS.
Zubkov and his teams remain disqualified in official Olympic results, but the Moscow ruling could make it harder for the IOC to get his medals back.
“The decision issued by the Moscow court does not affect in any way the CAS award rendered … an award which has never been challenged before the proper authority,” CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb told the AP.
“The fact that the CAS award is considered as ‘not applicable in Russia’ by the Moscow court may have local consequences but does not constitute a threat for the CAS jurisdiction globally.”
The IOC’s case against Zubkov was based on testimony from Moscow and Sochi anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, who said he swapped clean samples for ones from doped athletes, and forensic evidence that the allegedly fake sample stored in Zubkov’s name contained more salt than could be possible in urine from a healthy human.
Zubkov, who says he never doped, retired after the Sochi Olympics and has since become president of the Russian Bobsled Federation. The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation didn’t respond to a request to comment.
In the two-man event, Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann of Switzerland are due to inherit the gold medal from Zubkov’s team, while a Latvian squad is in line for the four-man gold medals.