Biathlon Canada to Boycott Russian World Cups

Jason AlbertDecember 14, 2017
Emma Lunder (r) with fellow Biathlon Canada national-team member Rosanna Crawford after the women’s modified sprint at Biathlon Canada’s team trials in November in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peter Collins/

On Dec. 10, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) announced its Executive Board decision to relegate the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) to “provisional membership” for the rest of the 2017/2018 competition season.

The IBU’s decision comes on the heels of the International Olympic Committee’s recent actions on Russia’s participation at the 2018 Winter Games.

Despite the RBU’s less-than-full IBU member status, Russia is still scheduled to host the final IBU World Cup races of the season from March 20-25 in Tyumen and the IBU Cup 7 & 8 in Uvat and Khanty-Mansiysk.

In an open letter sent to IBU President Anders Besseberg and IBU Secretary General Nicole Resch dated Dec. 8, 2017, Biathlon Canada’s President of the Board of Directors Murray Wylie stated Biathlon Canada will not be sending athletes to the IBU-sanctioned events in Russia in March.

In the letter, Wylie gives the following reasons for his determination:

  •  “The occurrence of high-level IBU events in Russia is inconsistent with the IOC decision of 05 December to disallow participation by the Russia Team in the PyeongChang Olympics:”
  • “the integrity of anti-doping procedures in Russia is still very much uncertain, given the current situation in which RUSADA remains non-compliant with WADA.”

FasterSkier reached Wylie on the phone at his home in Nova Scotia on Wednesday to discuss the letter.

“This is actually the third letter,” Wylie said (full interview in related podcast). “The first letter was sent the first part of last January and then there was a second follow up letter in May, and this is the third one. I think the importance of this one was it was after the announcement by the International Olympic Committee and their stance on the systemic doping with Russia and we were very pleased to see that. Basically, it was an opportunity. We knew there was an executive board meeting in Hochfilzen, and that is typically the vehicle for us to voice our concerns.”

IBU President Anders Besseberg speaking at a press conference regarding the IBU’s decision to relegate the Russian Biathlon Union to provisional membership on Sunday, Dec. 10. (Screenshot: IBU TV)

This past weekend’s IBU World Cups were held in Hochfilzen, Austria, and the IBU’s decision to relegate Russia to provisional membership was announced in there on Sunday.

On Wednesday, Norwegian news outlet NRK published a story highlighting Wylie’s letter and IBU President Anders Besseberg’s response. (The NRK link provides a full copy of Wylie’s letter.) It appears from a rough translation of the NRK story that Besseberg views the Canadian appeal as a non-issue.

Last season, in a pre-emptive move as the Sochi doping scandal mushroomed, the Russian Biathlon Union “gave back” IBU World Cup 8 to be held in Tyumen from March 9-12, 2017. Those events were moved to Kontiolahti, Finland. Yet the IBU still plans on holding its 2021 World Championships in Tyumen despite RUSADA remaining non-compliant and the Russian Biathlon Union having provisional member status in the IBU.)

“This is sort of a repeat of our stance that we issued in May with respect to the selection, if you will, of the World Championships in Tyumen in 2021…,” Wylie said. “This situation is a bit related to the IOC, but we have a nation whose anti-doping organization is non-compliant, WADA code non-compliant in the Russian Anti Doping Agency. 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. And there are the World Cups and the IBU Cups and that is something within the purview of the international federations. We voiced that quite strongly and that essentially is what we are saying.”

Wylie also said he is unsure if other national federations will make the stance to boycott the Russian IBU competitions scheduled for March.

At this point, he said Canada’s athletes might be jeopardized by competing in Russia and exposing themselves to potential sample tampering when it comes to anti-doping testing.

“Even though they have an alternate agency, I believe it’s the UK Anti Doping agency is actually contracted to do that, we have a nation that has been a non-compliant anti-doping agency,” Wylie said. “If one of our objectives, the IBU’s objectives, is to foster and promote doping-free sport, it is sort of non-congruent that you would actually hold or allow them to host IBU events as they have a non-compliant anti-doping organization. … It happens to be directed to Russia, but we have actually said that any national federation that is non-WADA code compliant should not be allowed to host any IBU events simple as that.”

Wylie explained he is interested in modifying the IBU bylaws to include detailed language that states a national biathlon federation with a provisional membership, like the Russian Biathlon Union, should categorically not be allowed to host major IBU events.

Jason Albert

Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.

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