Almost 30 Russians have had Olympic life bans completely nullified in connection with doping practices but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) insists they won't be invited to the PyeongChang Winter Games.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said there was "insufficient" evidence to prove doping offences at the Sochi 2014 Games for 28 athletes while in 11 other cases it confirmed doping but reduced the bans to just the February 9-25 Games in South Korea.
The 28 athletes include 11 medal winners, among them gold medallists Alexander Legkov (cross-country skiing) and Alexander Tretiakov (skeleton). Double bobsleigh gold medallist Alexandr Zubkov is among the 11 others.
The decision was welcomed in Russia, with President Vladimir Putin saying from Rostov-on-Don: "This confirms our position that the overwhelming majority of our athletes are clean.
"There are still some things to do, that is quite clear, in order to improve our programs and the policy against doping."
But while regretting the ruling for the 28 and fearing "a serious impact on the future fight against doping", the IOC insisted in a statement the athletes would not be going to South Korea because Russia's Olympic Committee is suspended and its invited 169 athletes are eligible to compete only as neutrals by IOC invitation.
"The result of the CAS decision does not mean that athletes from the group of 28 will be invited to the Games. Not being sanctioned does not automatically confer the privilege of an invitation," the IOC said.
The IOC last year banned 43 Russians for life from the Games and disqualified them from Sochi 2014 due to organised doping practices there, including the tampering with samples and sample-swapping.
Forty-two of them appealed at CAS and hearings were conducted for 39 last week in Geneva, with CAS making it clear that it was looking at each case individually and not at organised practices.
"The mandate of the CAS Panels was not to determine generally whether there was an organised scheme allowing the manipulation of doping control samples in the Sochi laboratory but was strictly limited to dealing with 39 individual cases and to assess the evidence applicable to each athlete on an individual basis," it said.
Russia and the athletes always dismissed the allegations, made in reports by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren, with the former chief of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, acting as a key whistleblower.
Rodchenkov, named a "credible witness" by the IOC but on a wanted list in Russia, testified in the CAS hearings along with McLaren.
Rodchenkov's lawyer, Jim Walden, said the CAS decision "provided a very small measure of punishment for some athletes but a complete 'get out of jail free card' for most.
"Thus, the CAS decision only emboldens cheaters, makes it harder for clean athletes to win, and provides yet another ill-gotten gain for the corrupt Russian doping system generally, and Putin specifically."
German Olympic boss Alfons Hormann spoke of "a slap in the face of the clean sport" as he fears years of legal battles over issue.