Russian cyclists banned from Olympic Games sue WADA, McLaren for damages

Three Russian track cyclists who were barred from the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro have filed legal action against the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and independent investigator Richard McLaren, claiming that they were unfairly tarnished as 'cheaters and dopers'.

Dmitry Sokolov, Kirill Sveshnikov and Dmitry Strakhov followed through on threats of legal action made last year after much of the Russian team was barred from competing in Rio following the explosive McLaren report that detailed state-sponsored doping, cover-ups of positive tests and sample switching at the Sochi Winter Games.

While the IOC refused to ban the entire Russian contingent, it did initially try to bar any athlete from the country with prior doping suspensions. The condition also applied to road cyclists Ilnur Zakarin, who in 2009 served a two-year ban for the anabolic steroid methandienone, and Olga Zabelinskaya, who served a retroactive 18-month ban for a banned stimulant octopamine.

Zakarin chose to skip making the journey to Rio, while Zabelinskaya remained, winning her appeal of the ban in a CAS hearing under the Osaka rule, and going on to claim the silver medal in the time trial behind the USA's Kristin Armstrong.

But Sveshnikov, Strakhov and Sokolov were barred because they were under suspicion of being involved in the doping scheme detailed in the McLaren report, which included lists of athletes and their doping regimes compiled by former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov.

The Russian team pursuit squad was left with only one rider not barred from competition, and despite an unsuccessful last-minute CAS appeal from the others, they were replaced by Italy in the track cycling competition. The three riders claim they have not been given an opportunity to answer to or defend themselves from the charges that kept them from the Games.

Represented by attorneys Eric S. Block and Valentin Borodin each described committing themselves to a cycling career at a young age, with Olympic Games dreams in their minds for years, only to have their ambitions crushed while they were on the cusp of competing. All denied ever having used performance enhancing drugs.

The attorneys say a 2014 doping ban was for Sveshnikov was overturned, and said the decision to ban the trio was based on a "rushed and compromised" McLaren report.

"Together, WADA and Richard McLaren prevented us from reaching our life-long goal of participating in the Rio Olympics, the pinnacle of our sport, and we allege that they wrongly associated our names with cheaters and doping." said Sveshnikov. "We are asking the Court to review all of the evidence and to vindicate us."

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