PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The Olympic doping bans of 28 Russian athletes were overturned by sport's highest tribunal Thursday while their results from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi were reinstated.
The decision throws the International Olympic Committee's policy on Russian doping into turmoil.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that evidence was "insufficient" that the 28 — including several medalists — had broken anti-doping rules om Sochi.
The athletes who had their bans lifted could now seek late entry into the PyeongChang Games, which open Feb. 9.
Eleven more were ruled to have been guilty of doping, but had lifetime bans cut to a ban from the PyeongChang Games alone.
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CAS said it "unanimously found that the evidence put forward by the IOC in relation to this matter did not have the same weight in each individual case. In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation was committed by the athletes concerned."
The IOC banned Russia from next month's PyeongChang Winter Games as a result of its "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.
The IOC invited 169 Russians to compete under a neutral flag, but may now be forced to allow in athletes it deems dopers, eight days before the Games begin.
"They were wrongly sanctioned without any evidence."
It wasn't immediately clear how many of the 28 Russians would now seek to compete. Some have already retired from competitive sports.
Those reinstated at the Sochi Olympics include skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov and cross-country ski gold medalist Alexander Legkov. Russia won't win back some medals, such as in the men's 4-man bobsled, where two crew members were disqualified and two reinstated. Both of the gold medal-winning two-man bobsled crew remain banned.
"It's a big victory for them and I'm relieved that justice has finally been done," said Philippe Baertsch, a lawyer for the athletes, told the Associated Press, said of the 28 who were cleared. "This confirms what they've been saying since day one, namely that they are and they've always been clean athletes, and that they were wrongly sanctioned without any evidence."
Seven Russian medals from the 2014 Sochi Olympics were reinstated, including gold in men's skeleton and men's 50-kilometer cross-country skiing.
The IOC last year banned 43 Russians over doping offenses at the Sochi Olympics.
The Russian director of the laboratory which handled samples for the Sochi Games, Grigory Rodchenkov, said he gave cocktails of banned steroids to athletes and swapped tainted samples for clean urine on orders from Russian state sports officials.
The Russian government vehemently denies ever supporting doping.
Three more appeals, all involving retired biathlon competitors, will be heard later.