This story needs to be split into two distinct parts: objective facts and subjective observations
Here’s a brief summary of facts
the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the appeals by Russian skiers and, effectively, reinstated them in international sport.
Not all were cleared – but most recognizable names in skiing, including Sochi Olympic champ Alexander Legkov and silver medalis, ex-world champ Max Vylegzhanin are on the list of reinstated. Full list here
FIS immediately removed all the restrictions put on those cleared – they are now free to participate in the World Cup etc.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, says that nothing changes when it comes to the Pyeonchang Olympics –“The result of the CAS decision does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the Games. Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation”
That’s where the facts stop – and observations begin.
Throughout this season the Russians as a team were participating in various international competitions where they were – naturally – rubbing shoulders with skiers from other nations. To put it simple, there was no obvious change in attitude towards them compared to previous years. The Russians don’t tend to be colloquial English speakers – and the best in English among them, Legkov and Alexey Petukhov were banned from competing after non-World Cup tournament in Gallivare. But bits of interaction were quite cordial – especially among the coaches and technical staff.
– Markus Cramer ( who, contrary to popular belief is not Russia’s senior coach – he supervises Ustiugov and several other top prospects) is as popular as ever – especially among his German speaking colleagues.
Head of the Russian Ski Federation and skiing Hall-of-famer, Yelena Vyalbe gets greeted, hugged and otherwise shown that she’s not seen as pariah but many in ski race paddocks
There are exceptions. The Americans and the Canadians are cordial but distant, cold towards the Russians – there might be not much to it, but it does contrast quite a bit with that outward show of sympathy by the many of the Europeans.
The sponsors are standing by, as far as one could tell. Sergey Ustiugov remains a headliner for Fischer as much as Alexander Bolshunov is for Rossignol. Neither of two were ever banned – and Bolshunov even got the IOC invitation to travel to Pyeonchang – but remember, the talk was about “state-run doping program”. It is quite obvious that international equipment manufacturers don’t see Russian connection as toxic. Russia remains a huge – and growing – market for equipment producers, clearly nobody wants to piss the home fans off by doing something drastic. And now, with the CAS clearance, those decisions seem justified.
Conclusion: the international skiing shall , probably, survive that bout of the Cold War that started with doping allegations and culminated with stripping Legkov of his Olympic gold. The Olympics will most probably go one without the strongest Russians, but things will be back on track, “business as usual” for the next year’s World Championships in Seefeld.
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