Two groups of Russian athletes seeking late entry for the Pyeongchang Olympics had their appeals adjourned Wednesday, leaving decisions on their participation to the eve of the opening ceremony at the earliest.
A group of 32 Russians who were denied invitations to the Olympics because of evidence linking them to past doping had their case heard Wednesday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport but no decision was made.
A second group of 15 lodged an application Wednesday seeking to force the International Olympic Committee to invite them to the games. They were all banned last year for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but those verdicts were overturned last week by CAS, sports' highest court. The 13 athletes and two coaches in that group included cross-country skiing gold medalist Alexander Legkov and skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov.
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CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said the first hearing started Wednesday but had been adjourned to Thursday, resuming at noon, "in order to hear also the second case."
"They want to consolidate the two cases," Reeb said. "Possibly a final decision can be rendered at the end of the day tomorrow. If we need more time, perhaps it will be Friday morning."
The Olympic opening ceremony is set for Friday night, and the participation of the Russian athletes continues to be a distraction.
The group of 32 athletes — including six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn, three former NHL players and world biathlon champion Anton Shipulin — failed to pass mandatory IOC vetting, imposed as a result of Russian doping at the 2014 Games.
"While CAS is sitting today and considering us, I'm out training. I'm not giving up and I'm hoping for a positive result," Shipulin said in a video he posted on Instagram. "Today I'm skiing with my phone and after each lap I'm checking to see if I've got my dream SMS."
The IOC expects 168 Russian athletes to compete under the neutral banner of "Olympic Athletes from Russia." Many more have been barred.
If the Russian athletes appealing their exclusion this week are successful, though, it would mean the medal contenders in some sports change dramatically.
Reeb said he was confident the matter would be resolved when the CAS ad hoc division makes its ruling in Pyeongchang.
"If their appeals are upheld, their participation will be granted," Reeb said, "and it will be the end, I think."