January 16th, 2019

Russian court says bobsledder can keep Olympic titles


By The Associated Press on January 11, 2019.

MOSCOW – Russian bobsledder Alexander Zubkov won a Moscow court ruling on Friday that could make it harder for the International Olympic Committee to recover his gold medals.

The Russian flagbearer at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was stripped of his two gold medals from those games in 2017 by the IOC for doping. He failed to overturn that disqualification at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year.

But Moscow’s highest civil court in November upheld Zubkov’s claim that the CAS procedure was unfair and shouldn’t be recognized in Russia. That means Zubkov is legally recognized as an Olympic champion – but only in Russia.

On Friday, the court rejected an IOC-backed appeal from the Russian Olympic Committee, which earlier said letting Zubkov keep his medals could “give rise to doubt that Russia truly observes the main principles of the fight against doping.”

Zubkov strongly denies cheating.

“I am a clean athlete. If you don’t know my story you can open Wikipedia and see how much I’ve done for sport and what I did in Sochi,” he said. “I brought gold medals here and gave sport 30 years (of my life).”

Friday’s ruling will also make it harder for Zubkov to be removed as president of the Russian Bobsled Federation, and may entitle him to a Russian state pension for retired star athletes.

The IOC’s case against Zubkov was based on testimony from Moscow and Sochi anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, who said he arranged for athletes to dope before swapping their dirty samples for clean ones. There was also 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 said on Friday that even if his sample had been tampered with, it didn’t mean he was a cheat.

The IOC and the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The IBSF issued a provisional suspension against Zubkov last month, though he remains RBF president and said on Friday he was “not frightened of challenges.”

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