With time to spare before the 2021-2022 race season, the International Biathlon Union clarified on Monday their fluoro wax policy. In a press release titled “IBU bans harmful fluor products from biathlon events,” the sport governing body banned the use of C8 fluorinated products. C8 compounds, also known as PFOAs, are eight chain fluorocarbons that have historically been used to enhance ski speed in certain conditions.
The IBU’s stance brings it into compliance with current European regulations regarding compounds containing C8. The IBU’s announcement also brings some clarity to a rather murky year or two when it comes to enforcing a potential ban of fluoro ski waxes.
However, the IBU did not ban fluorinated products outright for the 2021-2022 season. Ski speed products containing C6 fluoros are allowed. (Within the EU, C8 products are not allowed to be produced, sold, or used. C6 compounds are still allowed to be produced, sold, and used in the EU.)
The ban on C8 and permitted use of C6 in IBU sanctioned events will rely on a signed behavior contract by all relevant stakeholders. “To implement the ban, all National Federations and wax companies accredited for an IBU event are required to sign a declaration stating that their teams and staff participating in IBU events will follow the IBU rules and EU / ECHA regulations. Participation in an event without prior consent will not be permitted,” states the press release.
The enforcement of a fluoro ban has been a hotly debated topic the past few years as both the IBU and the International Ski Federation (FIS) floated then repealed a total ban on fluorinated wax, powders, gels, and liquids in the ski-prep process. The Fluoro Tracker, the handheld device in development to detect trace amounts of fluoros in real-time, has been held up due to issues with accurately detecting fluoros. According to the IBU, the Fluoro Tracker will not be introduced until after the upcoming race season.
With no real specifics mentioned, the IBU expressed that it would be enforcing their C8 ban by performing “analyses of materials produced for, or used in, the preparation of skis to confirm compliance with the IBU rules and EU / ECHA regulations. This includes spot checks of materials in use by teams or ski wax companies and individuals at IBU events. Such analyses will be conducted by experts from external and certified laboratories.”
Historically, testing for fluoros on a ski base has involved swabbing the base and sending the sample to a remote lab for analysis. This often involves a multi-day timeline as the sample is shipped, analyzed, and formal results worked up.
In their statement, the IBU claimed it was committed to a total ban on fluoros in the future.