CAS ruled there was insufficient evidence to show they had broken doping rules during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

But the IOC said Monday its invitation review panel examined applications on behalf of the 15 individuals and had lingering suspicions about potential anti-doping violations.

The row puts the IOC, which has always claimed to have the final say on which athletes compete in the Games, at loggerheads with sports law’s highest court just days before the Olympics begin in South Korea on February 9.

‘Disappointing’

IOC president Thomas Bach called the CAS decision “extremely disappointing and surprising.”

“We would never have expected this,” the 64-year-old German told a news conference in PyeongChang.

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Bach added: “The privilege to be invited requires more than just the absence of a sanction.”

The IOC will consider whether to appeal against the decision once it has seen the full details behind the ruling.

Bach also claimed the decision “shows the urgent need for reforms in the internal structure of CAS.”

Last year the IOC barred Russian athletes from competing in the 2018 Olympics over allegations of state-sponsored doping by Russia in Sochi.

However, Russian athletes who can prove they are clean will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag, and will be known as Olympic Athletes from Russia.

The IOC said in a statement the purpose of the review panel was “to confirm that athletes can be considered clean for a potential invitation to the Olympic Winter Games.”

It said the panel took into account extra information about the athletes sent to it by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which had “raised suspicion about the integrity of these athletes.”

At least 168 Russian athletes are participating in the Games, according to the PyeongChang official website. None of the athletes whose bans were overturned feature in the list.

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