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The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the appeals of athletes given lifetime Olympic bans for doping violations during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, saying there was insufficient evidence to show they had broken the rules.

Ten North Korean skaters and skiers arrived in rival South Korea on Thursday to participate in this month's Winter Olympics, which has brought a temporary lull in tensions over the North's nuclear weapons program.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the there was "insufficient" evidence that the athletes had benefited from a system of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Winter Games, hosted by Russian Federation.

The cases of a further three Russian Olympians - Olga Zaytseva, Olga Vilukhina and Yana Romanova - have been "suspended" while the 43rd, Bobsleigher Maxim Belugin, did not lodge an appeal with Cas.

However, the IOC said the athletes remain ineligible to compete in the PyeongChang Games due to the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee, which means Russian athletes may only compete on invitation by the IOC. Russian Federation has repeatedly denied state involvement in doping.

The CAS ruling, however, puts Russian Federation back on top of the overall medal count for the 2014 Sochi Games.

"In this context, it is also important to note that, in his press conference, the CAS Secretary General insisted that the CAS decision "does not mean that these 28 athletes are declared innocent".

The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from competing at Pyeongchang as a national team over the doping scandal, although 169 Russian competitors have been cleared to take part as neutrals.

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"As for the question about whether there were problems with doping or not - certainly there were, just like in many other countries", he added.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Russian deputy prime minister in charge of sport said the Lausanne-based court finding proved Moscow did not have a vast state-sponsored system of doping in place, contrary to the McLaren report.

Those reinstated at the Sochi Olympics include skeleton gold-medalist Aleksander Tretyakov and cross-country-skiing gold-medalist Aleksander Legkov.

Russian authorities last month said they would support the athletes who chose to compete in Pyeongchang as neutrals following a ban of the Russian team, as well as those who made a decision to snub the Games.

"Dr. Rodchenkov testified fully and credibly at CAS", the statement said. The IOC decisions in these matters are confirmed, with one exception.

Walden told AFP the ruling was "unfortunate" and suggested it "provides a very small measure of punishment for some athletes but a complete "get out of jail free card" for most".

He also urged Russian athletes to ignore doping scandals when they compete in Pyeongchang.

"We are very glad for our athletes", he added. If they win, the Olympic anthem will be played.


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