A total ban on Russian participation at the Summer Olympics in Rio moved a step closer Thursday when the country's track and field athletes lost a legal bid seeking the right to compete at next month's event.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) — the world’s highest authority in sports — upheld a decision by the track and field's governing body to exclude 68 Russian competitors amid the unfolding doping scandal.
With only 15 days until the opening ceremony, Russia still doesn’t know whether the rest of its Olympic team will be taking part.
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At stake is the issue of whether collective punishment of all Russian athletes would be fair or legally enforceable.
"This is not a day for triumphant statements"
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has repeatedly called for a balance between "individual justice and collective punishment,” and Russia’s Olympic Committee has said that punishing all athletes, regardless of their involvement in doping, would be unfair.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Thursday he regretted the CAS ruling, according to the Interfax news agency. "Unfortunately, a certain precedent has been established for collective responsibility," he said.
Russian pole vault champion Elena Isinbayeva described the ruling as the "funeral of athletics," according to the TASS news agency.
No country as a whole has ever been barred from the games for doping, and Russia is a major force in the Olympic movement as well as a sports powerhouse.
The last time Russia was missing from the Olympics was when it boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games in retaliation for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The prospect of a ban comes after the World Anti-Doping Agency accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing the vast and systematic doping of the country's Olympic athletes. It found 312 positive tests that Russia's deputy minister of sport directed lab workers not to report to WADA.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which imposed the track and field ban, said it was "thankful" for the CAS ruling.
"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 in a statement. "I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing. It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude."
Alastair Jamieson is a London-based reporter, editor and homepage producer for NBC News.
Tracy Snyder is a senior editor on NBC News' international desk in London.