Russian Bobsled Federation president Alexandr Zubkov and top skeleton athlete Aleksandr Tretiakov should not be suspended by the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation for now, according to an independent panel that contends they were not treated fairly in the investigation of state-sponsored doping surrounding the Sochi Olympics.
The three-person panel for the IBSF reached its conclusions after concluding that the acceptance of testimony by former Moscow and Sochi laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov may have happened in violation of international law.
Rodchenkov, who is living in the United States under FBI protection as a cooperating witness, told World Anti-Doping Association investigator Richard McLaren about the doping conspiracy — a key part of the report that eventually led to the International Olympic Committee not only banning several Russian athletes from future games but also not permitting Russia and its sports leaders from the upcoming Pyeongchang Games.
"Not hearing Dr. Rodchenkov before a proper Disciplinary Commission or Hearing Panel instead of exclusively before McLaren is convincingly probable to be successfully contested before a Court as being not compatible with the principles of international law," the doping panel wrote.
The IOC has said it found Rodchenkov to be a truthful witness. But the IBSF panel said that the federation suspending Zubkov and Tretiakov — who combined to win three since-stripped gold medals in Sochi — "would be clearly unfair."
It's the latest chapter in an already complicated saga.
The IBSF now will take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Zubkov and Tretiakov were provisionally suspended by the IBSF once the IOC decisions were revealed last month, then had those bans lifted — and the panel's decisions that were dated Monday are preventing those suspensions from being reinstated.
Whether IBSF suspensions exist or not, both Zubkov and Tretiakov remain banned from future Olympics by the IOC and still have their medals from Sochi stripped.
The doping panel, in its decision, stressed that it is not questioning the validity of the McLaren report — only that it believes there was a "legal necessity" to have Rodchenkov available to be cross-examined as part of due process for those accused of doping.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused U.S. agencies earlier this month of manipulating evidence from Rodchenkov and that the whistleblower is "under the control" of the Americans for political reasons.
Rodchenkov has said he was ordered by Russia's sports ministry to oversee steroid use by athletes in many sports, and to cover up their doping by falsifying test results and swapping dirty samples for clean ones.