Michael Geistlinger, right, alongside ex-IBU President in 2007 ©US Biathlon

Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) arbitrator and ex-International Biathlon Union (IBU) secretary general Michael Geistlinger has defended the process by which doping cases against 28 Russian athletes were overturned earlier this year.

The Austrian official was one of three arbitrators to sit on the second group of appeals which assessed 11 of the 39 athletes sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) late last year. 

Reasoned verdicts against two of those from the first group which he did not sit on - cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who was cleared, and bobsledder Aleksandr Zubkov, who was not - were published earlier this week.

The verdicts emphasised that they were not challenging the existence of an institutional doping system but merely finding that the evidence was only strong enough to convict certain individual athletes.

"We were aware that if we do not fully agree with the decisions of the IOC disciplinary commission - some reaction will follow, it's obvious," Geistlinger told Russian website Sport Express.

"Similarly, there would be a reaction from the opposite side if we did not listen to the position of the athletes. 

"In such cases it is always important to be extremely ethical. 

"After all, we are talking about human destinies. 

"They turned now in this or that direction not specifically because of us, but because of the circumstances that we considered."

A CAS verdict against Alexander Legkov was published this week ©Getty Images
A CAS verdict against Alexander Legkov was published this week ©Getty Images

IOC President Thomas Bach was among those to criticise CAS after the 28 cases were overturned shortly before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

"I think these words were said by Mr. Bach on emotions," Geistlinger added.

"I am convinced that in the end, having studied the reasons for the reasons and our arguments, he changed his mind. 

"And now he would have spoken about the decisions quite differently than directly after they were voiced."

Geistlinger spent 16 years at the International Biathlon Union, including in the position of secretary general between 2004 and 2008, and now serves as legal advisor for the International Skating Union.

He is also an expert in topics including Russian constitutional law and had written an article defending the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The official emphasised that he only served on cases not involving skaters and biathletes before criticising those, including Canadian IOC member Richard Pound, who had questioned his appointment.

"I conducted an analysis of the situation [in Crimea] and expressed the opinion that Russia had not violated the principles of international law and had adopted an absolutely legal, lawful decision - I'm ready to repeat this now," Geistlinger added to Sport Express.

"I do not quite understand why Mr. Pound is going to judge that article. 

"As far as I know, he, unlike me, does not specialise in international law. 

"Therefore, I can not view his criticism as an opinion of a specialist in this field."

Geistlinger responded: "I prefer not to answer this question" when asked if he accepted the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned McLaren Report about Russian doping before speculating that the LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) obtained by WADA from the Moscow Laboratory would not survive legal scrutiny unless it is verified.

"To use it in court, they will have to explain where the original is and how it was applied," he speculated.

"If there are no other evidence against the athlete, except for LIMS, it will be extremely difficult to prove his [sic] guilt."

Russia are currently refusing WADA access to the laboratory.

This is one of the key criteria - acceptance of the McLaren Report being the other - which is preventing the Russian Anti-Doping Agency being declared compliant once again.

Thomas Bach criticised the running of CAS before the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach criticised the running of CAS before the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

Geistlinger chose not to comment directly on the standing down of former IBU President Anders Besseberg and secretary general Nicole Resch after the opening of probes across Europe into possible doping, fraud and corruption involving Russian athletes - before implying that he doubted the credibility of the allegations.

Austrian prosecutors have revealed in a statement that the alleged wrongdoing at the IBU covered a period from 2012 until the 2017 World Championships in the Austrian resort of Hochfilzen.

The suspected bribes are claimed to amount to $300,000 (£211,000/€243,000).

"It is difficult for me to comment on the events, already when I left the organisation," Geistlinger said.

"But it is not clear - although nothing can be ruled out - how could manipulations with samples take place? 

"Between 2011 and 2015, WADA collected athletes' data for blood passports. 

"In the system, everything happened automatically and was transparent. I can not imagine how this data could be manipulated if they were under the full control of WADA and the ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration and Management System).

"Honestly, this is some mystery."

CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb has told insidethegames that they are yet to decide whether to keep Geistlinger on their list of arbitrators following the biathlon scandal.

"No decision has been made about him yet," Reeb said.

"First the reasoned awards, then the debriefing...I will see with the Board of ICAS what the next steps will be."