Ukrainian Olympic gymnast Oleg Verniaiev has doping ban cut

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The doping ban which caused Olympic gymnastics champion Oleg Verniaiev to miss the Tokyo Games was halved at the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Tuesday and freed him to compete immediately.

The decision potentially paves the way for Verniaiev's return at next year's Olympics in Paris.

The 29-year-old Ukrainian, who won Olympic gold on the parallel bars and silver in the all-around in 2016, tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in an out-of-competition test in August 2020 and was originally banned for four years from that November.

At that time, many gymnastics events were canceled because of the pandemic and the Olympics were postponed a year to 2021.

Verniaiev denied wrongdoing and appealed the case to CAS, which cut the ban to two years.

CAS said Verniaiev argued he tested positive because of "contaminated food products," and added the panel of three judges decided his violation was upheld but there were "grounds for a reduction in the period of ineligibility." The brief CAS statement did not provide details of how the panel reached that conclusion ahead of the expected publication of a full ruling.

"It was a long process, during which I proved that I had no intention to doping," Verniaiev wrote on Instagram. With the next Summer Games in Paris just over a year away, he signed off his post "Citius. Altius. Fortius." -- the Olympic motto and Latin for "faster, higher, stronger" -- and posted a picture from a training session.