Czech Republic and Great Britain have each withdrawn from the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup scheduled for the Russian resort of Tyumen in March in response to the damning McLaren Report findings about doping in the country.
The decision is bound to put pressure on the IBU ahead of an emergency Executive Board meeting tomorrow at which Russia’s hosting of World Cup events as well the World Championships in 2021 is expected to be discussed.
Names of 31 Russian athletes have been sent to the IBU by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in connection with an inquiry into the manipulation and tampering of drugs samples at events including the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
According to the Evidence Disclosure Package (EDP) published by McLaren, three members of the Russian team which won Olympic silver in the 4×6 kilometres relay at Sochi 2014 could be implicated, although no conclusive proof of this has yet been given.
The Czech Biathlon Union (CBU) announced in a letter circulated around the biathlon community that they have withdrawn their team from all events in Russia until the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is declared clean by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“It was about time that some federation came and said out loud what we are talking about behind the scenes,” CBU President Jiří Hamza told the iDNES news agency.
Two-time Sochi 2014 Olympic silver medallist Gabriela Koukalova has independently told Blesk.cz that she will join any boycott of events in Russia as she wants to be “completely honest as in sports, and in life in general”.
A statement posted on the website of the British Biathlon Union (BBU) claimed they had taken the “unanimous decision” to skip the World Cup event in response to the “brain-washed, deluded and dishonest comments of Russian World Cup athletes that the McLaren [Report] is about politics, not sport”.
It adds: “Moreover, the Board felt that the whole integrity of the very successful London 2012 Olympic Games has been called into question.
“Finally, many of the results from Sochi must be regarded as ‘a joke’.”
Britain are a very small team in the sport whose best result at Sochi 2014 was a 42nd place by Lee-Steve Jackson in the men’s individual event.
But the language is the most critical of any used by any sporting body since the doping scandal first emerged last year.
Tyumen is due to host a World Cup leg from March 9 to 12 while Ostrov in Russia is set to be the location for the IBU World Junior Championships from February 22 until March 2.
According to the British body, Norway have also demanded that the IBU strip all sanctioned biathlon events from Russia until the procedures are “clean” and ban all those implicated in the McLaren Report.
It is thought they will also consider a boycott if these conditions are not met.
“We will be surprised, and very disappointed, if the IBU do not agree with the comments of ourselves, Czech and Norway and re-locate WC 8 and the Youth/Junior World Champs from Russia this winter,” the BBU add.
insidethegames has contacted the Norwegian Biathlon Union for confirmation of this stance.
France’s double Olympic champion Martin Fourcade also called for athletes to boycott World Cup events in Russia before claiming these comments had been “misinterpreted”.
Norway finished top of the biathlon medals table in Sochi with three golds among a six medal haul.
The IBU awarded their 2021 World Championships to Tyumen in September, which appeared to be a direct violation of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) “provisional measures” first introduced in July in the wake of the publication of the first McLaren Report.
They urged all Winter Federations to “freeze preparations” for major international competitions in Russia, while asking them to “actively seek alternative organisers”.
The IBU claim the IOC Sports Department allowed them to press ahead with the vote in which Tyumen was victorious during a meeting of Olympic Winter Federations in Rio de Janeiro in August.
But IOC President Thomas Bach said this month that they would respect WADA’s decision on whether Russia can remain as IBU World Championships host and that their recommendation for preparations for winter events to be frozen remains unchanged.
A defiant press release has also been released by the Russian Biathlon Union today denying any wrongdoing.
“In the course of several years, RBU has consistently pursued a policy of zero tolerance for doping. This is confirmed both by strict compliance of all Team Russia biathletes with the requirements of WADA and their due availability for control by WADA and other accredited organizations along with active collaboration of RBU with these organizations in the field of promotion of clean sport,” they said.
“Within the idea of zero tolerance for doping RBU held more than 10 seminars for athletes and coaches inviting representatives of national and international anti-doping organizations.
“All persons who had ever been involved or had been under suspicion of any connection with the use of prohibited substances were banned for life.
“In the course of internal tests at national competitions all the athletes who didn’t comply with strict requirements of RBU were caught and severely punished.
“Another proof of zero tolerance for doping is the fact of cooperation of RBU with the foreign experts, such as Ricco Gross and Wolfgang Pichler, who would never agree to jeopardise their reputation.”
They claim not to know the identity of the 31 athletes highlighted by McLaren.
Sochi has already been stripped of February’s International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Championships in response to the McLaren Report.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.