Wild Rumpus Sports

IBU Keeps World Cup in Russia, Slated for March, On Schedule

At an Executive Board meeting at the Olympics, the IBU (International Biathlon Union) decided not to move a World Cup competition in March away from Tyumen, Russia, even though Russia is currently not compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Two second-tier IBU Cup competitions will also go on as scheduled, one weekend in Uvat, Russia, and the other in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

“Firstly, the IOC had no concerns that all the competitions awarded to Russia before RUSADA was officially declared non-compliant were to be organised and conducted according to the initial plans and schedules,” the IBU wrote in a press release as their justification for the decision. “The IBU decided on the schedule for the 2017/2018 season prior to RUSADAs non-compliance.”

But the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is still not deemed compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency and that’s very unlikely to change between now and March. And the IBU itself had previously downgraded the Russian Biathlon Union to provisional membership in its international federation; three biathletes were disqualified from the 2014 Olympics for doping.

In December, Biathlon Canada wrote a letter to the IBU stating that they would boycott the event if it was to be held in Tyumen.

“We have a nation whose anti-doping organization is non-compliant, WADA code non-compliant in the Russian Anti Doping Agency,” Biathlon Canada President Murray Wylie told FasterSkier at the time. “So our pitch has been — Biathlon Canada, the Canadian federation — if you are WADA non-compliant, then you should be not hosting any IBU events, major IBU events… We voiced that quite strongly and that essentially is what we are saying.”

There have already been some reactions regarding the decision.

“Hugely disappointed with the [IBU] decision today to, despite considerable pressure, to keep the [World Cup] in Russia,” Monday’s Olympic pursuit silver medalist Sebastian Samuelson of Sweden tweeted, according to a translation.

Having the event in Tyumen would be “a huge, huge affront to clean athletes,” U.S. biathlete (and World Champion) Lowell Bailey told ESPN’s Bonnie Ford in an article published on Tuesday. “That’s saying to the world, to the athletes on the World Cup, the IBU executive board has no problem with doping, and they actually, in a sense, reward federations that dope. Because that’s a reward. It’s a monetary reward, pride, all of those things.”

Samuelsson was rewarded with numerous twitter replies from Russian accounts telling him to stay home, one of which called him a baby and another of which said he was “not welcome in Russia”.

Along with the abuse and threats hurled at Czech women who gained a 2014 Olympic relay medal after Russia was disqualified for doping, that might partly explain why athletes are in fact reluctant to go to Russia.

“Tensions are so high right now, [competing in Russia] is not something I feel comfortable risking,” American biathlete Susan Dunklee said in the same ESPN article.

A similar fight played out differently last season, when the Czech and British teams led a boycott threat of that season’s scheduled World Cups in Tyumen. That time, the IBU relented and moved the competitions.