Note: This article has been updated with information about bribes as reported by Le Monde on Wednesday.
Austrian police raided the headquarters of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) in Salzburg on Tuesday night and into Wednesday. According to Austrian press, the investigators were acting on behalf of the Business and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and were particularly concerned with computer evidence.
The IBU released a statement on Wednesday, revealing that the search was part of an investigation into President Anders Besseberg and Secretary General Nicole Resch. Resch has taken an immediate leave of absence, and Executive Director Martin Kuchenmeister has taken over as Acting Secretary General.
Full details into the reason of the investigation remain unclear, but it is at least tangentially related to doping.
On Wednesday, the French daily Le Monde broke new information it obtained from a 16-page confidential World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report, which was released in late 2017. Besseberg and Resch are being investigated for accepting Russian bribes in regards to the nation’s doping case. The bribes were to the tune of a few hundred thousand dollars, and Alexander Kravtsov, the Russian Federation’s chef de mission at the Sochi Olympics, is quoted as saying that a suitcase can hold up to $400,000 dollars. The Russian Federation also allegedly promised members of the IBU Congress between $25,000 and $100,000 Euros.
In that report, WADA cited the following: “Mr. Besseberg’s unalterable support for Russian interests, the suspicious management of the biological passport’s obligations by Ms. Resch and the initial allocation of World Championships from 2021 to Russia.”
WADA communications director James Fitzgerald confirmed to Norway’s NRK broadcaster that WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations unit had exchanged information with Norwegian and Austrian police, as well as Interpol. He stated that as a result, police were also involved in Norway (Besseberg’s home country) on Tuesday.
And indeed, on the same day Norwegian broadcaster NRK published an interview with Russian whistleblower Grigoriy Rodchenkov alleging that the IBU had covered up blood passport violations by Russian athletes.
However, the investigations may also be linked to broadcasting rights, with the European Commission announcing that raids had been carried out in relation to antitrust laws on the same day, although they did not mention biathlon specifically.
“The European Commission can confirm that on 10 April 2018 its officials carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies active in the distribution of media rights and related rights pertaining to various sports events and/or their broadcasting. The Commission has concerns that the companies involved may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.”
According to the Le Monde article, the IBU has emphasized that it is taking these investigations “extremely seriously” and “cooperating fully”. Resch, 42, was reportedly suspended from her office at her request. The head of the IBU since 1992, Besseberg recently announced that he would not seek re-election at the 2018 IBU Congress in September.
— Harald Zimmer and Alex Kochon contributed
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.