LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Pop violinist Vanessa-Mae was cleared by sport’s highest court June 19 of allegations she helped fix Alpine skiing races so she could qualify for the Sochi Olympics.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, however, upheld the ruling that Vanessa-Mae should have been ineligible for the 2014 Games because the qualifying events in Slovenia were “so defective.”
The court lifted the four-year ban imposed on the celebrity athlete by the International Ski Federation, meaning she can try to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The CAS judging panel said “a number of irregularities had occurred in the organization and management of the four races” in January 2014 which helped Vanessa-Mae accumulate the points needed to qualify for the Sochi Games.
The rigging included inventing times for skiers who did not race and faking times for skiers who did finish. However, the court said there was no direct evidence to implicate Vanessa-Mae in fixing.
She had denied wrongdoing and called the sanctions “nonsensical.”
“(The panel) could not find, to its comfortable satisfaction, evidence of any manipulation by Vanessa Vanakorn herself that justified the guilty finding,” the court said in a statement, using her family name.
Vanessa-Mae competed in Sochi for her father’s native Thailand, finishing last of 67 racers in the two-run giant slalom. She was more than 50 seconds behind gold medalist Tina Maze of Slovenia.
The scam, revealed five months after the Winter Games, tarnished one of the feel-good stories of the Olympics.
Without the cheating orchestrated by her managers, Vanessa-Mae “would not have achieved the necessary FIS point performance level to be eligible to participate in the Olympic Winter Games,” the governing body said in its ruling last year.
“A previously retired competitor with the best FIS points in the competition took part for the sole purpose of lowering the penalty to the benefit the participants in the races,” FIS said.
Race officials also broke rules by not changing the course design between the first and second runs, and allowing skiers to continue in poor weather which should have forced abandonment.
FIS also banned five race officials from Slovenia and Italy for between one and two years for their role in the scandal.
IOC President Thomas Bach was photographed with Vanessa-Mae in Sochi and later appointed her to a working group helping shape future policy for the Olympic movement.