In a bombshell ruling just a week before the Winter Olympics open in Pyeongchang, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has overturned the lifetime Olympic bans of 28 out of 43 Russian athletes accused of doping at the Sochi Games in 2014. The athletes can now keep medals they won in Sochi and could theoretically compete in Pyeongchang—though the International Olympic Committee says the ruling doesn't mean they are automatically invited, the Guardian reports. The CAS also reduced the bans of 11 Russians found guilty of doping from lifetime to this Olympics only. The IOC banned Russia for sanctioning doping, but at least 164 Russian athletes will compete in the "Olympic Athlete of Russia" team.
In a ruling that the IOC warned "could have a serious impact on the future fight against doping," the CAS said the bans were being overturned not because the athletes were being "declared innocent, but in their case, due to insufficient evidence," the BBC reports. The IOC also said the upholding of sanctions against some athletes "clearly demonstrates once more the existence of the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system at Sochi 2014." Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko says Moscow plans to file legal action to allow the athletes involved to compete in Pyeongchang, the AP reports. Veteran American skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender, meanwhile, says she is "heartbroken" by the decision, which means she will lose the bronze medal she was awarded after the Russian who finished third in Sochi was disqualified. (Read more 2018 Olympics stories.)