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Russia ‘bought silence’ over biathlon doping

President of the International Biathlon Union Anders Besseberg addresses the opening ceremony of the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, on February 8, 2017. AFP
President of the International Biathlon Union Anders Besseberg addresses the opening ceremony of the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, on February 8, 2017. AFP

Russia ‘bought silence’ over biathlon doping

Russia attempted to buy the silence of world biathlon chiefs to cover up doping, a confidential report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) seen by French daily Le Monde claimed on Wednesday.

Based on the potentially damning 16-page WADA report, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) had done “everything so that no proceedings would be opened against the Russians”, the newspaper said.

“The main goal of the corruption is to protect doped Russian athletes,” concluded the WADA report dated late 2017 and quoted by the Le Monde website.

Contacted by AFP, WADA confirmed on Wednesday that it had conducted “an investigation into the activities of the IBU” and had contacted police in Norway and Austria as well as Interpol.

On Wednesday, the IBU confirmed that Austrian police had raided its headquarters in Salzburg and its offices in Norway.

“WADA confirms that this case is related to doping,” said an agency spokesman without elaborating further on the details.

According to Le Monde, WADA believes that Norway’s Anders Besseberg, the IBU president, and general-secretary Nicole Resch were targeted “successfully” by Russia.

WADA added that areas of concern included fears over “biological passports”, “Besseberg’s unwavering support of Russian interests” and “the initial awarding of the 2021 world championships to Russia”.

The world championships of 2021 were awarded in 2016 to Tyumen in Siberia despite the scandal of state-backed Russian doping from 2011 to 2015 having already been revealed.

‘Leave of absence’

“According to WADA’s anonymous source, the Russian federation offered between 25,000 and 100,000 euros to members of the congress,” Le Monde added.

Tyumen won the vote with 25 of the 49 votes.

However, under pressure, notably from WADA, the IBU eventually stripped Russia of the 2021 championships.

Le Monde added that doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory, now living in exile in the United States since 2016, testified in this case.

Jim Walden, the lawyer for Rodchenkov, confirmed that his client had cooperated in the latest investigation.

“We are confident that all fraud and corruption related to doping in international sport will be fully disclosed,” said Walden.

To hide cases of doping among Russian biathletes, the IBU sent suspicious profiles to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada), and “ensured that doped Russian athletes could not be spotted”, Rodchenkov told investigators, according to Le Monde.

Earlier in the day, the IBU said that Resch, 42, a German, has requested a “leave of absence”.

Besseberg, 72, who is Norwegian, announced last week that he would not stand for re-election.

“The IBU Executive Board is taking the matter extremely seriously and continues to be committed to operating under the highest standards of good governance and transparency,” a statement said.

The IBU has been accused in the past of being slow to counter the taking of performance drugs in the Winter Olympic sport combining cross-country skiing and shooting.

There was also media speculation that the probe is linked to raids on several firms as part of an investigation into alleged irregularities with television rights.

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