Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) delivers a speech during a session at the Week of Russian Business, organized by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), in Moscow, Russia Feb 9, 2018. The Kremlin said Friday that it regretted the rejection of a last-minute appeal by dozens of its athletes to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. (REUTERS PHOTO)

MOSCOW: The Kremlin said Friday that it regretted the rejection of a last-minute appeal by dozens of its athletes to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

"We regret this. We are taking this decision into consideration... and undoubtedly we will continue to help athletes to stand up for their rights," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists after the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"Now the main thing is to support our athletes: both those who remained in our country and those who went to Korea and will compete there," Peskov added.

On Friday, 47 Russians implicated in doping lost a last-minute court bid to take part in the Pyeongchang Olympics, just hours before the opening ceremony.

The applicants, who included Korean-born speed skater Victor An, had asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn an IOC decision not to invite them to South Korea.

The Russian Olympic Committee expressed "extreme regret" at the ruling.

In a statement, it said "the athletes and the world sporting community as a whole still does not know the concrete reasons why such leaders of world sport as (biathlon gold medallist) Anton Shipulin, Victor An and (cross-country skiing world champion) Sergei Ustyugov did not receive invitations to the games."

Earlier Friday Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko claimed that the court was under pressure from Olympic officials when it rejected the bid.

"It's difficult for CAS to make decisions against the backdrop of an earlier pressure," Mutko told Interfax news agency, referring to objections from the International Olympic Committee.

The deputy prime minister who oversees sport said if the Russian athletes implicated in doping had been allowed to take part in the Games now "it would have caused shock."

He said the IOC had in place "opaque, controversial" procedures to decide who attends the Games and who does not.

Mutko said this created an impression that the Olympic Games had turned into "a private party and there are a lot of attendance criteria."

The IOC was swift to welcome the decision, the latest twist in the Russian doping scandal, saying the ruling "supports the fight against doping and brings clarity for all athletes".

The Russian situation has proved highly contentious in the build-up to Pyeongchang, after their team was banned. But a certain number of "clean" Russian athletes were allowed to take part as neutrals.

However, the CAS decision may not be the end of the matter. A source close to the IOC told AFP that the 47 Russians have also lodged a case with a Swiss civil court in Lausanne.

Russia's suspension in December follows the uncovering of systemic doping that reached its peak at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, where host nation Russia topped the medals table. - AFP

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