GENEVA -International sport's top court on Thursday upheld appeals by Belarus 2008 Olympic medal-winning hammer throwers Vadim Deviatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan, overturning doping sanctions imposed on them.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to restore the silver and bronze medals they won at the Beijing games, due to technical irregularities by the laboratory in China that carried out the doping tests that prompted their punishments.
"The CAS has upheld the appeals filed by the two Belarusian hammer throwers, Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan, against the decision of the Disciplinary Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)," it said in a statement.
The panel of arbitrators "emphasised that its decision should not be interpreted as an exoneration of the athletes and has not declared that the athletes did not, prior to the competition, administer exogenous testosterone," it added.
The ruling said the IOC decisions on Devyatovskiy and Tsikhan, who tested positive for testosterone on August 17, "are set aside".
The IOC disciplinary committee had stripped them of their medals four months later and disqualified them retroactively from Beijing.
It had also imposed a life ban on Deviatovskiy and excluded Tsikhan from the 2012 London Games in line with recent rules automatically banning an athlete caught doping at an Olympics from the next Games.
The court said the case had been complex.
But the arbitrators concluded that the the Beijing National Laboratory had violated reporting and documentation requirements by failing to give a "plausible" explanation for an interruption in an automated testing procedure.
It also breached international standards by allowing the same analyst to be involved in testing on both the A and B samples collected from the athletes.
Those departures from the safeguards imposed by the international standards for laboratories justified the cancellation of the test results.
The arbitrators pointed out that "strict application of the rules is the quid pro quo for the imposition of a regime of strict liability for doping offences".