Dozens of Russian athletes banned by the International Olympic Committee for life over doping have begun an appeal process against their suspension.

The week-long hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) includes appeals from 39 Russians who competed at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi who were involved in a vast, Moscow-backed doping scheme, according to multiple independent investigations.

CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb told reporters outside the court that any athlete who travels to Geneva will be heard “one-by-one during the week” but, he added that he was unsure “if they will all show up”.

Among the witnesses scheduled to testify is Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping lab. He was the key whistleblower who exposed the cheating programme that IOC president Thomas Bach has described as an “unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympics”.

Rodchenkov will appear via video-link from the United States, where he fled in 2016 saying he feared for his life.

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Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who authored the report on Russian cheating for the World Anti-Doping Agency, has also been announced as a witness.

Some of the athletes whose cases are being heard are still hopeful of taking part in next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, with a final decision on each case “likely” to come between January 29 and February 2 – only a week before the start of the Games.

Russia has been banned from taking part at the 2018 Winter Olympics, which run from February 9 to 25, due to the alleged widespread doping.

However, athletes who prove themselves to be clean have been told by the IOC they can compete under strict conditions, and under a neutral flag.

 

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