The doping cases of Russian biathletes Ekaterina Iourieva, Irina Starykh, and Alexander Loginov have finally wrapped up, with the International Biathlon Union fining the Russian Biathlon Union 100,000 Euros.
All three doping cases were resolved in June with Iourieva banned for a total of twelve years, Starykh for a total of three years, and Loginov for a total of two years, based on repeat infractions on the part of the two women.
“Earlier the RBU was fined €50.000 for Anti-Doping Rules violations in 2009,” the IBU stated a press release. “The current fine amount for the RBU is the highest possible financial sanction which is provisioned by the IBU Disciplinary Rules.”
It’s unclear when the idea of a fine originated, but IBU Director General Nicole Resch stated in an email that the issue first came before the Executive Board at their meeting this month.
“The fine was put on the agenda for the Executive Board in early November, after the decisions of the Anti-Doping Hearing Panel were final in July 2015,” she wrote.
That means that the fine was placed on the agenda before the release of the World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Commission report was released showing state-sponsored doping in Russian track and field, although two documentaries by German filmmaker Hajo Seppelt had already brought the issue into the public eye.
“We had to wait until the hearing panel made their determination ( they are an independent board) and then we needed to convene the Executive Board to discuss the situation and determine the punishment,” Jim Carrabre, the Vice President for Medical Issues, wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “Since this was Russia’s second offense where where more than one athlete doped in a year, we decided to levy the maximal fine. I anticipated this the moment we knew that we caught them. It had no bearing on ARD or WADA. This was prior to Sochi. The timing looks like we might be responding like this because of the WADA report but it has no bearing on it.”
Yet IBU President Anders Besseberg said that the fine did not mean that the Russian Biathlon Union itself had promoted doping.
“I would not say that the Russian Biathlon Union engaged in deliberate doping,” he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “I’ve said it before and I’m not afraid to say it again: in Russia and some other countries there has been a lack of culture when it comes to doping… This hurts, but it’s also no secret that in the past five to six years most of the positive samples are from Russian athletes. When we then have the opportunity to give them such penalties, we do it.”
It’s hard to pin down a number for the budget of Russian biathlon, since it is funded by a combination of different sources. Going into the 2014 Olympics, when it was still headed by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, U.S. Biathlon CEO Max Cobb estimated that the Russian budget might be ten times as big as his own $1.6 million budget.
If so, that would make the fine 0.6% of the Russian team’s resources.
“I think the fines AND the probation periods should be MUCH bigger, perhaps by a factor of 10,” U.S. biathlete Lowell Bailey wrote in an email. “Russia spent $51 billion on the Sochi games… Does anyone really think that a €100,000 fine to one of their biggest [national governing bodies] is going to make any meaningful difference? Especially when it is now clear how intertwined the Russian government and sports committee are with their Olympic NGB’s? A doping fine should be more than a small line-item expense. It should be enough to seriously injure a program for years… Something that will make them think twice the next time they decide to cheat.”
In an interview with the German media company T Online, Resch said that there are now no more pending doping cases within the IBU, and that the organization had begun the process of redistributing prize money. The Russian federation must pay back prize money won by the banned athletes.
“With regard to the Loginov case, I have not been contacted directly, but I expect this will all get taken care of in the next couple of weeks,” Bailey wrote in an e-mail. “I can’t even believe a two-year ban is all these athletes get! Obviously, in the case of Iuorieva, the two-yr ban wasn’t much of a deterrent the first violation since she clearly just went back to doping as soon as she was eligible to compete again.”
Resch defended the IBU’s antidoping program but also said the organization would be taking some new approaches to update it.
“For the future we will increasingly cooperate with the WADA-certified NADOs, and increase the number of tests for growth hormones and improve our intelligence through the cooperation with the WADA Blood Passport experts even further,” Resch said, according to a translation. “I have confidence in our internal medical intelligence for the testing strategy – the figures from the past speak for it.”
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.