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Wild Rumpus Sports

IBU Delays Action on Athletes’ ‘Doping Letter’

The International Biathlon Union (IBU) Executive Board met in Antholz, Italy, today to discuss the organization’s ongoing response to the Russian doping scandal.

Among the agenda items was a letter signed by 170 top biathletes urging the IBU to consider longer bans for doping offenses, a reduction of World Cup quota spots for countries with multiple offenses, and bigger fines for breaking the rules.

The IBU took no direct action on these suggestions.

“The proposals from the athletes’ letter, received on January 13th 2017, are appreciated and taken seriously. The proposals are now forwarded to the Legal Committee in order to draft proposals to the Executive Board for future rule amendments to be tabled at the next Congress,” the IBU wrote in a press release.

This did not sit well with the athletes.

We do not accept a half-year wait until Congress might do something,” Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the winningest biathlete of all time, told Norway’s TV2. “We want a clean World Championships in a few weeks. So we must have a reaction from the IBU now.”

The athletes sent the International Biathlon Union a very clear message, but no action was taken,” Darya Domracheva – the Belarusian Olympic triple gold medalist, IBU athlete representative, and Bjørndalen’s wife – told Russian media. “There was no action taken, and the athletes were left somewhat disappointed. Perhaps the International Biathlon Union still will take some steps. But if I have to wait another year and a half until the next Congress, I think we, the athletes, will get together and think about what actions we will take on our side.”

But some had perhaps been expecting it.

“I believe the dumbest thing [the IBU could do] would be to put us off and say ‘we will wait and see, we can’t decide anything yet, this takes some time’,” current World Cup leader Laura Dahlmeier told ZDF last week.

The press release did note that an Extraordinary Congress could be convened, if it was deemed necessary before the next regularly scheduled Congress in 2018.

The IBU did take several actions, as noted in the press release:

  • Seven new investigations will be opened into athletes mentioned in the McLaren report. It is not clear whether these athletes are suspended while the investigations take place. IBU President Anders Besseberg apparently demurred when specifically asked this question by a journalist at his press conference, saying only that there were seven athletes and the names were not important. In addition, there’s no information about how the seven were chosen. FasterSkier’s deep dive into the McLaren report evidence found discussion of 13 positive doping tests by 11 athletes, none of whom were Vilukhina or Romanova.
  • There will be no investigation into 22 other athletes mentioned in the McLaren report: “There is no sufficient evidence for the other athletes for the time being,” the press release states. As mentioned above, this does not correspond with the number of biathletes specifically mentioned in the McLaren report evidence.
  • All Russian athletes competing at any IBU event will be added to the Registered Testing Pool for drug testing.
  • The IBU is opening a formal investigation into the Russian Biathlon Union, specifically to determine whether they had any knowledge of doping by the seven athletes who are under investigation. This has a deadline of February 9th; the Executive Board will meet again before the beginning of 2017 World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria.
  • The IBU will request to the International Olympic Committee that all anti-doping samples from the 2014 Olympics belonging to athletes who are still competing, be opened and re-tested.

“Most importantly, our athletes will continue to compete in World Cup event,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS. “The Russian Biathlon Union and anti-doping services have made great effort to make Russian biathlon clean of doping and bring it in line with international standards.”

“It’s OK,” Russian Biathlon Union President Aleksandr Kravtsov separately told the TASS news agency. “There is no talking about Russian biathlon team’s suspension and the team will go on with the competitions.”

-Chelsea Little